ALERT CENTER: "It was all he ever wanted to do." NYC honors Detective Wilbert Mora
NEW YORK (AP) — Throngs of police converged Wednesday for New York City's second funeral in a week for an officer ambushed while answering a call for help in Harlem, mourning Wilbert Mora.
Organ music filled Fifth Avenue as Mora's funeral began Wednesday morning at the Roman Catholic cathedral where his police partner, Jason Rivera, was eulogized Friday. Both young officers were shot Jan. 21 while responding to a call about a domestic argument in an apartment.
Mora, a Dominican immigrant, joined the police force in 2018, hoping to help reshape relations between the New York Police Department and communities that have chafed at its tactics.
“He policed with empathy and believed in protecting his fellow man, regardless of the danger to himself,” his precinct commander, Inspector Amir Yakatally, said in a eulogy.
Dedicated, thorough and an aspiring sergeant, “he was a guy to rely on to make the right call,” Yakatally said.
Mora's contributions to others continued after his death, when the 27-year-old's organs were donated to five different people in need.
Mora’s funeral came shortly after the sixth shooting this year of an NYPD officer.
An off-duty police officer was shot and wounded when two men approached him at a Queens traffic light as he drove to work Tuesday night, police said. The officer was stable at a hospital Wednesday, and two men were arrested.
“Last night we were reminded again about the danger and overproliferation of guns,” Mayor Eric Adams, a retired police captain who took office last month, said at Mora's funeral.
“This has been a painful last few weeks,” the Democrat added, vowing to “build a city of peace out of the ashes of fear.”
Mora, who came to the U.S. in childhood, joined the NYPD after graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As a student who'd grown up in East Harlem, he was interested in improving relations between police and the neighborhoods they patrolled.
Mora made 33 arrests during his few years on the job, while impressing fellow officers and supervisors as humble, helpful, eager to learn and keen to cultivate bonds with co-workers.
“Wilbert was the perfect candidate to join the NYPD,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Wednesday as she posthumously promoted him, like Rivera, to detective. “No one had to tell him to become a police officer. It was all he ever wanted to do.”
“It’s a horrible loss for the community, for the city, for anyone that’s a first responder,” Linden, New Jersey, Officer Raymond Wegrzynek, 34, said outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesday for the latest in a series of police funerals he has attended in his six years of police work. “It’s a thing that we do. We all come together.”
The gunman who killed Mora and the 22-year-old Rivera, Lashawn McNeil, died after a third officer shot him as he tried to flee, officials said.
Before last month, the NYPD had last lost an officer in the line of duty when Anastasios Tsakos was hit by a suspected drunken driver in May 2021 at the scene of an earlier wreck.
No on-duty NYPD officer had been fatally shot since September 2019, when Brian Mulkeen was hit by a fellow officer's fire during a struggle with an armed man.