The 33-year-old NYPD officer who was fatally shot in the head last week while on duty in East Harlem was remembered at a wake Tuesday as an even-tempered man who always had a smile on his face.
Thousands of family members, friends and fellow officers gathered at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica to pay tribute to officer Randolph Holder, a five-year NYPD veteran who was shot in the head after responding to reports of gunfire near the FDR Drive a week ago.
An honor guard carried Holder's flag-draped casket to the alter where those who knew and respected the young officer will bid farewell over the next two days. Hundreds of officers stood in the shadows of blue ribbons tied to fences and trees as they waited their turn to walk inside.
Holder always wanted to be a policeman, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who served as officers in their native Guyana. Holder's dream came true in 2010 when he joined the NYPD and began patrolling the city's public housing complexes.
"It's in his blood," said his commanding officer, Captain Reymundo Mundo. "It's in his genes."
As a stream of officers wiped tears from their faces, many said they wanted to live by his example and not bury themselves in the loss, said Sgt. Joe Imperatrice.
"It's never easy," he said, recalling the funerals of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu last December. "But anything that goes on, you're going to put on your vest, put on your uniform and do your job right."
Holder was also remembered for the sacrifices he made for his family, his No. 1 priority.
"He was a very outgoing person, very giving and very caring, especially for the family back home," his aunt Ruth Noel said. "It's a great loss in Guyana, too, not just here."
As Noel stood in front of the church Tuesday, she recalled memories of her time with her nephew.
"It's only when these people are gone that you see how good they really were," she said.
Noel said she became overcome with emotion when she saw her nephew laid out in an open casket in the church, dressed in his full uniform, as his fellow officers wept.
"I just couldn't hold myself," she said. "It's too much for me."
Holder died Oct. 20 after being shot in the head near the FDR Drive. He and his partner had been chasing a man after responding to a call of shots fired and a bicycle stolen at gunpoint. The suspect, 30-year-old Tyrone Howard, hopped off the stolen bicycle and shot Holder, authorities allege. Howard was taken into custody a few blocks away and has been charged with murder and robbery.
A grand jury indicted him on unspecified charges Tuesday. Howard did not appear in court. The charges are expected to be unsealed at a hearing next month. His attorney has said there are many missing details in the case.
A funeral for Holder is scheduled for Wednesday. He will be buried in Guyana.