MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – About 25,000 police officers from around the country–including nine officers from here in the Twin Cities — paid tribute to a fallen comrade in New York City Saturday.
Officer Rafael Ramos was ambushed and killed one week ago with his partner, Wenjian Liu, as the two sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
In Queens Saturday morning, Ramos’s flag-draped coffin was carried into Christ Tabernacle Church as mourners looked on.
The funeral was full of high-profile speakers–including Vice President Joe Biden–but for the group from the Twin Cities, the most powerful statement came from the thousands of men and women from across the country who came to pay respects.
“I’ve never seen that many officers in one area at once in my life,” he said. “It was deeply touching.”
Fitch spent 19 hours driving with other officers from the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments to attend. The group has been to several officers’ funerals, but this is the farthest they’ve traveled. Fitch said he waited four hours to get into the wake Friday in a line that stretched a full mile.
“It could have been any of us,” he said. “All of us are in that situation where we’re in a squad car, and you just never know what’s going to happen.”
While turnout was extraordinary for this funeral, Fitch said his wish was the same as it is at every service he’s ever attended.
“I hope this unfortunate incident brings the community and law enforcement together to where we can heal and move forward,” he said.
When New York mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the service, hundreds of police officers turned their backs, siding with union officials who say de Blasio helped foster an anti-police climate that may have contributed to the shootings.
But Fitch didn’t come to New York to immerse himself in political controversies. In a time when the whole world is watching, he said the job description never changed for any of the thousands and men and women who protect and serve.
“I just want people to know that we are there to help out,” he said. “We care about people. That’s why we have fallen into this job.”
The Twin Cities group plans to make the drive back to Minnesota Sunday night. They say they’ll return with a renewed sense of urgency to help create positive relationships between police officers and the people they serve here at home.
Funeral plans for Liu have yet to be announced.
Five officers from Minneapolis and four from St. Paul made the trip to New York. Some of the officers are also members of the color guard and honor guard.