‘I'm the Loneliest Without You': Emotional Funeral for NYPD Det. Jason Rivera

Officer Jason Rivera died last Friday after being shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call in Harlem; Officer Wilbert Mora was also shot and killed and will have his services next week

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What to Know

  • Two NYPD officers, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, died after they were shot in Harlem Friday while responding to a domestic violence call
  • Rivera's funeral is Friday at St. Patrick's Cathedral; Mora's funeral will be held Feb. 2
  • Accused gunman Lashawn McNeil died of his wounds Monday after being shot by a third officer

Huge crowds of friends, fellow officers, family members and other mourners said their final goodbyes Friday to a 22-year-old NYPD officer who was shot and killed a week ago in Harlem.

Ofc. Jason Rivera was posthumously promoted to Detective 1st Grade during the funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral Friday morning. His widow was presented with his shield.

"I would say good morning to you all, but in fact it's the worst morning ever," his tearful widow Dominque Luzuriaga said during her heart-rending eulogy of her fallen husband. "Today I'm still in this nightmare I wished I never had.

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, Det. Jason Rivera's widow and brother offered emotional and heartfelt tribute to their fallen loved one. Outside, rows of police officers and people from near and far offered a final goodbye to a hero. NBC New York's Myles Miller and Sarah Wallace report.

"Although I gained thousands of blue brothers and sisters, I'm the loneliest without you," she said.

Awash in unimaginable grief and sadness, Luzuriaga described how she and her husband had gotten into an argument the day he was killed. As the couple left Rivera's apartment, she ordered an Uber. Rivera offered to give her a ride, but she declined because she didn't want to keep arguing.

"I said no, and that was probably the biggest mistake I ever made," she said.

Luzuriaga recalled the horror of seeing cellphone alerts about two officers being shot in Harlem. Her worries grew as she texted and called the former elementary school classmate she married this past October, begging him to respond even though she knew he had been angry with her. She got no answer until the call that summoned her to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"I couldn't believe you left me. Seeing you in a hospital bed wrapped in sheets, not hearing you when I was talking to you, broke me," she said. "I asked why. I said to you, 'Wake up, baby, I'm here.' The little bit of hope I had that you would come back to life just to say goodbye or say 'I love you' one more time has left. I was lost. I'm still lost."

Det. Jason Rivera's widow said during her eulogy that her husband had a final message: Lax laws and lax enforcement are partly to blame for the killing of the officers, while specifically criticizing the new Manhattan district attorney. NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst reports.

His older brother told an absolutely silent cathedral just how much being a cop meant to Jason Rivera.

"My brother's first love was policing. That was his first love," an emotional Jeffrey Rivera, said. "He would literally wake up in the middle of the night policing. He was obsessed with his career in law enforcement ... My brother had a lot of fears. He was afraid of heights, rats, dogs. He wasn't afraid to die to wear that uniform."

Police filled the pews at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and a sea of blue uniforms stretched for blocks as snow drifted outside the city's iconic church. Mayor Eric Adams, himself a retired NYPD captain, said he saw an echo of himself in the slain officer who joined a department he hoped he could make better.

“He did it for the right reasons — he wanted to make a difference,” said Adams, a Democrat who also sounded a message of support for a department that, like others, has faced criticism amid a national reckoning with policing, race and what public safety should mean.

“There were days when I felt the public did not understand and appreciate the job we were doing, and I want to tell you officers: They do. They do,” Adams said.

“The horror that took their lives is an affront to every decent, caring human being in this city and beyond,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said, telling any criminals in the city to “see the presence in this cathedral — the NYPD will never give up this city.”

"The system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore," a heartbroken Dominique Luzuriaga said in a tearful memorial to her fallen husband.

After the funeral, Rivera’s casket, draped in a green, white and blue NYPD flag, was taken via funeral procession with family, members of the 32nd Precinct and a police motorcycle entourage to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, where Rivera was cremated and laid to rest.

Officers came from near and far to honor Rivera, who was just into his second year on the job. Row after row of uniformed officers, ten deep for blocks and blocks, stood shoulder to shoulder, unflinching in the falling snow for nearly three hours.

The officers listened on loudspeakers as Rivera's family members shared their anguish. Many civilians joined in mourning the slain officer, standing shoulder to shoulder with uniformed officers who wore black sashes over their badges.

There was an incredible show of support from non-police New Yorkers during Thursday's wake as well, from many who waited in the frigid temperatures to say goodbye. Some, like Frank Pena, knew Rivera: He owns the Inwood Pharmacy where Rivera used to work during his college years.

Pena said Rivera was proud of his Dominican roots, and that he loved the city and wanted to serve it.

"Jason was something special. Since the beginning, since I first saw him, he was pure happiness. Willing to help people, always wanting to be a police officer," Pena said. "There was something special, always helping people. Everything. It's really hard to take it."

Marisa Caraballo, a former neighbor of the Rivera family in the heavily Dominican neighborhood, said his mother objected when he told her he wanted to become a police officer. She said it was dangerous, but Rivera insisted and his mom relented.

“She said, ‘OK. I support you,’” Caraballo said.

In an essay describing why he became a police officer, Rivera recalled the injustice of being pulled over in a taxi and seeing officers frisk his brother.

“My perspective on police and the way they police really bothered me,” Rivera wrote. But he said he got interested in becoming a cop himself because he saw the department “pushing hard” to improve community relations.

After his death, Rivera’s widow posted on Instagram that she and her husband were friends since childhood. She shared a message he wrote her in their school days saying he loved her and wanted to marry her.

After their wedding last October, Luzuriaga wrote that Rivera was her “soulmate, best friend and lover from now until the end of time.”

“But now your soul will spend the rest of my days with me, through me, right beside me,” Dominique wrote over a picture of her husband’s police locker. “I love you till the end of time.”

As the crowds dispersed Friday, an officer solemnly reminded his brethren that another funeral at the cathedral awaited next week, when funeral services for Mora take place.

Jason Rivera Remembered

Rivera called Inwood home, and so many people from his neighborhood will always remember the kid who always wanted to be a cop.

"Like a family. I miss him a lot. I still don’t believe, I still don’t believe it," said friend Jose Torres. "Everybody liked him. All the customers asked for him. On the phone, every time it rings, 'I want to talk to Jason.'"

Torres fondly remembers working side-by-side with Rivera at Inwood Pharmacy when they were teenagers. A few years ago, coworkers surprised Rivera with a cake as he worked the register on his birthday. Video showed the young man smiling and happy as everyone celebrated for him.

For the third night, the community gathered to hold a vigil for the two officers shot in Harlem after responding to a domestic disturbance call. NBC New York's Jessica Cunnington reports.

Torres said Rivera’s dream was always to be a cop, and even before he joined the NYPD, he was dedicated to a life of service.

"He used to go outside. The homeless people were hungry. He would go to the store and buy food for them," Torres said.

When Rivera got the job and put on the uniform, he stopped by the pharmacy all the time.

"I was happy for him. He told me look see, dreams come true," Torres said.

Two NYPD officers, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, have died after they were shot in Harlem Friday while responding to a domestic violence call. NBC New York's Jessica Cunnington reports.

After a days-long struggle, Rivera's partner Officer Wilbert Mora died from injuries suffered in the shooting as well. The 27-year-old was taken off life support at a Manhattan hospital four days after being shot by a gunman shot him during a domestic disturbance call. Before dying, Mora's heart, liver, pancreas and both kidneys were donated to others.

The viewing service for Mora will be held on Feb. 1 from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. at St. Patrick's Cathedral as well, with the funeral to be held the following day at 10 a.m.

Mora and Rivera “were dedicated, courageous and compassionate officers, loved by many. The pain their families feel is immeasurable. We pray for them; we will be strong for them,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a message after Mora's death.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that flags on state buildings will be flown at half-staff Friday in honor of Rivera and Mora.

Accused gunman Lashawn McNeil, who was shot by a third officer, died Monday.

NYPD Officer Jason Rivera had always wanted to become a cop. One of his former coworkers remembered the 22-year-old who made his dream come true before his life was cut short by a gunman. NBC New York's Marc Santia reports.

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.

The deaths of Officer Wilbert Mora, who passed away on Tuesday, and Officer Jason Rivera marks the first time two officers were killed together in the line of duty since 2014. NBC New York's Jessica Cunnington reports.

NYPD Shooting Timeline of Events

Rivera, Mora and another uniformed officer responded to a domestic disturbance call around 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 21 on West 135th Street by a mother who said she was fighting with her son, according to police. She did not mention any injuries, or any weapons, on the call.

After officers arrived, they went to a rear bedroom, where McNeil fired multiple times as they approached the door. The man then tried to run from the apartment, but was confronted by the third officer, rookie cop Sumit Sulan, who shot him twice.

In addition to the gun he was firing, sources say another weapon was found under his bed, a privately assembled weapon based on parts purchased and registered in Michigan. The ATF/NYPD Joint Firearms Taskforce was still trying to figure out how the AR-15-type assault weapon got into McNeil's possession, a senior law enforcement official said.

NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst breaks down the latest proposals from Mayor Eric Adams in the fight against gun violence in NYC.

One round was found in the second gun's chamber, law enforcement officials said, along with 19 more in a magazine.

Sources previously said McNeil's mother had told police she was not aware he had guns in the apartment.

According to multiple senior officials with direct knowledge of the investigation, the accused shooter, McNeil, has a history of increasingly rabid belief in anti-government conspiracy theories. Officials are also looking into the possibility that McNeil continued firing after the officers were down, and before he charged down a hallway and was shot himself.

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