Thousands Mourn Fallen L.I. Police Officer

Thousands of mourners turned out in Seaford, Long Island on Thursday to say goodbye to Nassau police officer Michael Califano.

Amid a bone-chilling wind and with heavy hearts, family, friends, and colleagues paid tribute to the fallen officer. Muffled drums and the sound of bagpipes filled the air outside Maria Regina church.

The sorrow of the day was etched on four faces: Califano's widow, Jackie, who clutched her husband's patrol hat, and Califano's three young sons, who stood bravely alongside their mother.

"It seems like we're all being hit by a tidal wave of grief," said Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey.

Califano, 44, was a twelve year veteran of the Nassau police department.  He was killed early last Saturday on the Long Island Expressway in Old Westbury.  A truck smashed into his patrol car during a traffic stop.  The truck's driver was asleep, police allege.  John Kaley, 25 of New Britain, Connecticut is now facing criminally negligent homicide charges.

Califano was the first Nassau officer to die in the line of duty since 1993.

"It takes a piece out of you.  It's very tough," said police officer Dan Johannessen, who first met Califano in the police academy.

The entire class had bought a pair of special pens as a show of solidarity, Johannessen recalled.  He carried those pens to the funeral to honor his friend.

"I will always remember his smile.  It was infectious," said Mike Bartlett, a detective who trained Califano at the police academy.  "I was devastated by news of his death."

"He was an outstanding police officer -- a hero," added Commissioner Mulvey, and Califano was afforded a hero's farewell.  Six Nassau police helicopters passed over the church as his casket was being carried out.

His three sons looked on.  His middle boy, Christopher, proudly wore his father's hat.

A memorial fund has been set up for the Califano family.  Contributions can be made care of the Nassau County PBA, 89 East Jericho Turnpike, Mineola, NY 11501.

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