Faith Held Up as the Final Word at Cathedral Funeral for Det. Rivera


Inside a packed St. Patrick's Cathedral, the widow of NYPD Det. Jason Rivera tearfully told the faithful about the love she felt for her slain husband. “You made me feel alive; you make me feel alive,” she said, looking toward Rivera’s casket. The newlyweds were married last October; they were high school sweethearts who knew each other since elementary school.

Cardinal Dolan served as principal celebrant in the Jan. 28 Funeral Mass for Rivera, 22. Father Robert J. Abbatiello, O.F.M. Cap., pastor of Sacred Heart in Yonkers, delivered the homily. The Mass was conducted in English and Spanish. More than 2,000 attended, and outside on Fifth Avenue thousands of uniformed officers from the NYPD and other police departments lined Fifth Avenue in a blue sea of tribute stretching for blocks.   

"Although you’re not here anymore, I know you will live through me,” said Dominique Luzuriaga, the widow, in her eulogy delivered toward the end of the Mass, noting the immense joy she felt when they were married last Oct. 9. 

(Ms. Luzuriaga also expressed the need for local policies to better protect officers and civilians, and she lamented having had an argument with Rivera the day of the shooting, a disagreement stemming from her dismay over his having his work phone with him while they were together).

During the morning Mass, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell announced she had posthumously promoted Rivera to detective first-grade, an announcement met with loud applause and a standing ovation. Ms. Sewell stepped down from the sanctuary and presented the detective shield to Rivera’s widow, who was sitting with Rivera’s parents, Ana and Daniel, and other loved ones; she hugged the family members and returned to the sanctuary to finish her eulogy.

There were several standing ovations in response to the eulogies, including one from Mayor Eric Adams. The eulogists spoke of Rivera’s “infectious smile and personality.” And they spoke of his love for sports—playing and watching; his love of being a police officer, which fulfilled a childhood dream; and the great love he shared with Dominique. They also noted that he was affectionately known by his nickname, “Tata,” among his loved ones. 

Rivera, of Dominican ancestry, joined the NYPD in November 2020. Family members attend Mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and St. Jude parishes, both in the Inwood section of northern Manhattan.

Rivera died in the line of duty Jan. 21. Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, died Jan. 25 at NYU Langone Medical Center, where he had been transferred from Harlem Hospital. They have been hailed as true heroes. 

Rivera and Mora were responding to a nighttime domestic disturbance at a Harlem apartment after the mother of shooting suspect Lashawn McNeil, 47, called 911 for help during an argument with her son. That’s when McNeil allegedly shot the two officers, and then a third responding officer shot McNeil, police said.

McNeil died from his wounds Jan. 24.

Father Abbatiello, in his homily, addressed Rivera’s family in Spanish, saying, “Our thoughts are with you today.” Addressing the congregation filling the cathedral, including many uniformed NYPD officers, the pastor said, “To all who have gathered here today to pray for our brother, and to honor his life, may the peace and the love of God be with you.”

Father Abbatiello went on to say, “Death surely does sting, especially when a young person’s life is cut short, so tragically; just at the beginning of his career, just at the beginning of his marriage. Just at the beginning of realizing a childhood dream. It surely seems, it seems that death has the victory. 

“But it is not death that has the victory, it is not death that brings us here today; it is faith that brings us here today.”

The Capuchin Franciscan friar, who came to know the Rivera family when he was pastor of Good Shepherd in Inwood, spoke of the great solidarity expressed toward Rivera’s family and his fellow police officers from “people of all faiths, of all religious traditions, fellow police officers from around the country and indeed from around the world.” 

Despite the hurt, he said, “we surely know where to turn…to the compassion of our God, to our loving faith community, to our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His promise that even in death we shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die. That’s what brought us here today…We honor our brother, Jason.”

He closed with a simple prayerful declaration, “Jason, hermano, descanse en paz,” (Jason, brother, rest in peace).

Cardinal Dolan, in blessing the casket with holy water, prayed that the Lord take Rivera “a la vida eterna” (to eternal life).

Other eulogies, all touching and heartfelt, were given by NYPD Inspector Amir Yakatally; Patrick J. Lynch, chairman of the NYPD Police Benevolent Association; and Rivera’s older brother, Jeffrey Rivera, 27. 

“I love you forever, bro. Thank you, please protect us always,” said an emotion-filled Jeffrey Rivera.

Capt. Dan Charleson from the New York State Police was among the people inside the 

cathedral during the Funeral Mass.

"He was a true hero, not just by how he died but by how he lived," Capt. Charleson said of Det. Rivera in an interview with Catholic New York after the Mass. "This young man had everything ahead of him. The archdiocese gave a great sendoff. We all stood together in our grief for this hero."

Moments later, Narcisa Mercado, Det. Rivera's kindergarten teacher at Amistad Dual Language School in Inwood, told CNY in Spanish, "He was a very lovely boy, with a kind smile. The family is very united."

The seven-hour wake for Jason Rivera Jan. 27, also at the cathedral, gave a stream of New Yorkers an opportunity to pay their respects to the fallen police officer.