What to Know
- Two NYPD detectives, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, died after they were shot in Harlem on Jan. 21 while responding to a domestic violence call; a third officer shot the gunman, who later died
- Rivera, 22, was eulogized last week by his widow, who decried the plague of gun violence and loose laws that enable crime; Mayor Eric Adams vowed Wednesday at Mora's funeral to eradicate that plague
- 'We reflect on his bravery. We remember his sacrifice. It is New Yorkers against the killers and we will not lose. We will protect our city,' Adams said. 'We will win this fight. We will win it together.'
For the second time in less than a week, a sea of cops and civilian mourners converged on midtown Manhattan's St. Patrick's Cathedral to pay tribute to a young NYPD officer, a "giant" in a city of soaring heights with an infectious laugh and a soulful heart, who was gunned down while answering a call for help in Harlem.
Officer Wilbert Mora's funeral began with a powerful rendition of "Amazing Grace" Wednesday at the same Roman Catholic cathedral where his police partner, Jason Rivera, was posthumously promoted to Detective First Grade last week.
Mora received the same honor, bestowed upon him by NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell before throngs of grieving loved ones and friends, at his funeral. Outside, officers massed by the thousands on Fifth Avenue.
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"He was a true leader, an outstanding police recruit, an exceptional officer and the first generation of his family to join a profession that asks courageous men and women to leave their own families every day to protect and help someone else's," Sewell said, condemning the act of violence that brought her and others to the same pillar of faith that drew them days ago to remember another one of their own."
"An ocean of officers shouldn’t have to line streets for the second time in five days to mall the appalling loss of a 27-year-old son and brother, gathered in and around a place that so grandly represents the enormity of faith," she said.
"Police officer Wilbert Mora’s family trusted that he, a beloved man they sent out to serve this city, would return home to them, He always did. His colleagues trusted he would return to work with them another day. He never failed to do so in the past."
Friday, Jan. 21, was different. Both Mora and Rivera were shot while responding to a call about a domestic argument in an apartment. The gunman, Lashawn McNeil, 47, died after a third officer, rookie Sumit Sulan, shot him as he tried to flee.
"Detectives Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera were gifts we never got to keep," Sewell said. "That piercing sound you heard on a cold night last week was the wail of a mother whose faith in everything good and fair in this world had been shaken to her soul. I hope the whole city heard her."
Mora's heartbroken family accepted the American flag that had been draped over his casket as the procession exited St. Patrick's. She was visibly distraught, as throngs of cops, friends and others shed tears over a special man gone too soon.
The detective was hit in the head and had a bullet lodged in his brain. He was taken off life support at a Manhattan hospital four days after the shooting. His heart, liver, pancreas and both kidneys were donated to others before he passed away, enabling doctors to save the lives of five strangers.
That was just part of the kindness he showed his whole life, as older brother Wilson Mora put it. The brother, accompanied by cousin Carolin Liz, spoke to the crowd of mourners about a little boy, the youngest of four children, who always lit up a room, adored (and was adored by) his mother, loved to be silly and had no meanness in his body.
"Everyone says you’re a big teddy bear of a man but you were like that even when you were little. Mom showered us with love and you absorbed it like a sponge so as an adult I saw your love for your friends and people come out in ways that others can’t," Wilson Mora said, recalling his brother's patience with people at their worst and how so many gravitated to him because he allowed them to be themselves.
"We had so many plans together," he added, choking back tears. "We were supposed to travel and go camping and go on road trips. I wanted to experience the adventure with you because your love for life was always infectious. I want you to know that I was always proud of you."
The detective's sister, Karina Mora, also spoke (watch her remarks here) as did cousin Claribel Jiminian (watch her remarks here). Their comments similarly reflected a uniquely and powerfully special individual who won't be forgotten.
"How many Wilberts and how many Jasons, how many more police officers, will have to lose their lives so that the system changes?" Karina Mora asked those gathered. "New York police officers protect us, but who protects them?"
"Legislators, crime ended the lives of two exemplary young men who only offered their best to their city,” she said. “Take action. Enough is enough.”
Earlier, a somber Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer himself, offered his condolences to the family as he described Mora, the youngest of four children, as a "brother officer, a brother citizen" who faced the same threat all NYPD face -- and the consequence that befalls some of the department's most honorable heroes.
"The work of protecting New Yorkers, defending our city, the work Officer Mora was doing when he was killed in the line of duty ... Those of us who have put on the uniform know what happened to Officer Mora could happen to us any day," Adams said, vowing his full support to the young man's family. "Their pain is our pain."
"We reflect on his bravery. We remember his sacrifice. It is New Yorkers against the killers and we will not lose. We will protect our city," the mayor added, pledging to eradicate the plague of gun violence "carving highways of death" in the city.
Mora, 27, joined the NYPD in Oct. 2018, after graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A student of Dominican descent who'd grown up in East Harlem, he was interested in improving relations between police and the neighborhoods they patrolled, according to one of his professors, Irina Zakirova.
That sensibility endured in his police work. Stephanie McGraw, a domestic violence victims' advocate who got to know Mora while visiting his stationhouse, said last week that he “understood the importance of getting into this very crucial and important role as a police officer — to not only make a difference but to bring some more men and women of color into the NYPD."
At the same time, Mora made 33 arrests during his few years on the job. Fellow officers recalled him as a humble, helpful colleague who took the bus to work.
His contributions to helping others continued after his death. Mora's organ donations benefited five people, according to the organization that handled the gift.
Sewell declared Mora a hero three times over as she announced his death last week, citing his organ donation.
Speaking Wednesday at his funeral, she touched on the man inside the uniform, Mora's inner light and goodness along with his undeniable courage.
"He absolutely loved this job. With a kind, gentle soul and infectious laugh he cared deeply about his family and truly valued his friends," Sewell added, calling Mora a "giant" in a city known for soaring skyscrapers and powerful individuals.
At Mora's wake a day ago, also at St. Patrick's, an officer who worked with him and Rivera remembered how Mora’s powerful physique — tall and stocky with a football player’s frame — belied how approachable he was.
“He was a very humble young man. He was always happy, always eager to help any way he could,” Officer Keith Hall said Tuesday.
“I just grieve for his family. I’m grieving on my own, but I can only imagine what the family’s feeling,” said Hall, who has collected more than $310,000 in a fundraiser for the slain officers' families.
“The city should be grieving after losing two great people who were great, great individuals who served the community and then paid the ultimate sacrifice. So we all should be heavy hearted right now,” he said.
The officers' deaths echoed the 2014 killings of another pair of officers, Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, who were fatally shot by a man who ambushed them as they sat in their patrol car. That was the last time multiple NYPD officers were killed in the same incident; only five such incidents have occurred in the last 20 years, excluding the terror attacks on 9/11.
Auxiliary police officers Yevgeniy Borisovitch and Nicholas Pekearo were gunned down in Greenwich Village on March 14, 2007. The two were chasing a suspect who had just shot and killed a worker inside a pizza restaurant.
In 2004, detectives Patrick Rafferty and Robert Parker were shot and killed after arriving at the scene of a domestic violence suspect attempting to steal a car on Sept. 10. On March 10, 2003, detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin were shot and killed in their car after both were discovered to be police during an undercover drug operation on Staten Island.
Mora and Rivera were the first NYPD officers killed in the line of duty by a gunman since 2017, when Miosotis Familia, 48, was ambushed as she wrote in a notebook in a mobile command post in the Bronx. Two officers killed in 2019 died by friendly fire.