SEAFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The deacon of Michael Califano’s church said the veteran Nassau County cop was being remembered as “the picture of a dedicated family man.” A funeral was held Thursday for the officer who was killed last weekend.
WCBS 880 Reporter Sophia Hall spoke with a friend who says Califano was a great family man
1010 WINS Reporter Mona Rivera spoke with Califano’s former co-worker
Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers gathered across the street from Maria Regina Roman Catholic Church in Seaford.
“Politicians, dignitaries, we have people from the neighborhoods, everybody is out here, because it hits home for everybody,” said officer James McDermott.
“Mike was a tremendous cop. He was a great person. A great family man. He was there for everybody. Always had a smile on his face. He will be greatly missed by everybody here,” John Bilello of Nassau County Police told CBS 2’s Lou Young.
The 44-year old officer died while he was conducting a traffic stop last Friday night. He had pulled over to issue a warning ticket to a truck driver in the westbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway, when he was rammed from behind by another truck driver.
Investigators said 25-year-old John Kaley of Connecticut – the driver of that second truck – fell asleep behind the wheel and crossed over the road’s rumble strips into the shoulder, crushing Califano’s police cruiser.
“It was terrible. We have police officers that were there that have never seen a car that was that badly damaged. I don’t think he had a chance,” said Jim Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.
Police said there were no signs of alcohol in Kaley’s system. He was charged with third-degree criminally-negligent homicide.
“There is a requirement that after x number of hours on the road, you need to get rest and they played into our decision to charge criminally negligent homicide,” said Lawrence Mulvey, Nassau County Police Commissioner.
“No allegation at all of any alcohol involvement, any drugs, nothing like this, simply a car accident that resulted in a death. A horrible tragedy,” said William Petrillo, Kaley’s Defense Attorney.
Retired Highway Patrol Police Officer Lynndon Ang said when Califano was out on the roads, he knew the nature of the unit’s work made for a potentially perilous tour of duty on a daily basis.
“There are days you think about it more than others. There are days I go to work and I can look at the weather and the temperature and the environment, and it is much more prevalent in my mind that this is going to be a very dangerous day,” he said.
The casket bearing Officer Califano was escorted by thousands through the streets of Seaford –his funeral mass at the same church where he and his widow, Jackie, were married, reports CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The pain on her face was almost too much to bear as she clung to their young children,
Michael Jr., 13, Andrew, 6, and 11-year-old Christopher, who was wearing his father’s police hat.
“By far the nicest guy I knew,” one mourner said. “Always had a smile on his face.”
For Officer Califano, family and duty mattered more than anything. Killed three years after achieving his dream of earning assignment on Nassau’s elite Highway Patrol Unit, he was proud and committed.
Nassau County PBA tells 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera that they will be taking donations for the officer’s widow and children
“Those that go there understand that, accept that risk, and put their lives on the line in a different way than others do. That was something that he wanted – a coveted position,” Mulvey said.
The Califanos lost an infant daughter in 2003 to a congenital disease. Officer Califano’s partners noted that he never once complained.
“He went to the hospital to see her every day right from work and came back to work and right back to the hospital the next day,” Officer Michael Mullen told McLogan.
The outpouring of love on Thursday was overwhelming.
An entire community is heartbroken and indebted to a police officer killed protecting them — the public.
“It bonds us, brings everyone together from all over the country. We are just blessed with this great support,” Carver said.
Jackie Califano offered the following message: “When things seem dark take a moment to think of Mike’s smiling face and allow his memory to help light your way.”