New York City prides itself on being tough, but the senseless shooting last week that took the lives of two young cops has shaken us to our core.
Police Officer Jason Rivera was just 22 years old and had been on the job for just over a year when he was felled in a hail of gunfire while responding to a 911 call for a domestic dispute in Harlem.
His partner, Wilbert Mora, 27, clung to life for four days; his death was announced Tuesday as CNY was going to press.
From what we’ve learned about Officer Rivera and his motivation for joining the force, it seems he was just the kind of police officer we want to serve and protect us in our city.
He grew up in northern Manhattan in an immigrant household and became a police officer, he wrote on his application, with the goal of “making better the relationship between the community and the police.”
Our prayers go out to his family and to the family of Officer Mora, whom Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell called “three times a hero” for choosing to serve as an officer, for sacrificing his life in service to others and for “giving life even in death through organ donation.” Cardinal Dolan had visited Officer Mora in the hospital and has spoken with the families of both officers.
The Jan. 21 shootings were the latest in a string of devastating incidents in the city that have vexed Mayor Eric Adams since he took office New Year’s Day.
These included the subway pushing death of a 40-year-old woman by a deranged homeless man in the Times Square station, the fatal shooting of a teenage girl cashier during a robbery at an East Harlem Burger King, the 11-month-old baby girl hit in the face by a stray bullet in the Bronx, and the other police officers shot and wounded in incidents in the Bronx, East Harlem and Staten Island.
Just as our prayers are with the victims and families in all of these cases, our prayers and support also are with Mayor Adams, a former NYPD captain, in his efforts to lead us through this horrible cycle.
We are confident that he understands the issues and knows the stakes are high.
As this column was being written, in fact, the mayor released an ambitious 15-page multifaceted program to address the crisis of violence in the city-–especially gun violence—and the separate issue of the mentally ill homeless population.
“We will not surrender our city to the violent few,” the mayor pledged, announcing the program at City Hall.
The program relies not just on the Police Department, although that’s a major focus, but also outlined in great detail efforts that are needed by the courts, by prosecutors, and by lawmakers in Albany and Washington, D.C., to help turn things around. He also called on religious leaders of all faiths to preach once a week for a month on the need to stop the violence.
These are all important components, but the one likely to have the most immediate impact is the reactivation and revamping of the anticrime plainclothes police units that were disbanded in 2020 and whose major purpose was removing illegal guns from the streets.
Meanwhile, the city continues to mourn its loss.
The Funeral Mass for Officer Rivera will be offered in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Friday, Jan. 28, preceded by a wake there on Thursday afternoon and evening. Arrangements for Officer Mora were not immediately announced.
We urge as many New Yorkers as are able to attend the viewing and/or the Mass for Officer Rivera. The police officers who place their lives on the line every day to keep us safe deserve to see our support.
For those who cannot attend in person, we ask that you pray for the repose of the souls of the two young officers and for the safety of our great city.