RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Family members, friends and colleagues paid their final respects Monday to a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty as he patrolled the Long Island Expressway.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the funeral mass for Nassau County Officer Joseph Olivieri, 43, at St. Joseph Church, at 45 Church St. in Ronkonkoma.
The mass was attended more than 8,000 uniformed officers from more than 100 law enforcement agencies, who lined the streets of Ronkonkoma to pay tribute. The officers came from as far away as Danbury, Conn., but among the mourners were also many members of Olivieri’s own highway patrol.
They called Olivieri a go-to guy – always first on the scene to help. And they said Olivieri died as he lived – coming to the aid of a motorist.
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“One of the most outstanding police officers we had. Personally, a quiet man. So likable, loved by everyone who knew him. A family man” said Nassau County police Chief Steven Skrynecki. “He will be truly missed by every member of the department.”
“He went there to take action. He didn’t think about the consequences of what was going to happen,” said Nassau County PBA President James Carver.
“He was always willing to give a hand; I mean, he was a real cop’s cop,” said Nassau Officer Robert Delsignore.
Olivieri was a 19-year police veteran — five with the NYPD and the rest with Nassau County.
Carver said Olivieri was a dedicated member of the department who died helping others.
“Joe loved this and that night when he was killed, he was out there doing something,” he said. “He jumped out of the car immediately and went to go help people instead of waiting for help. He took action.”
Skrynecki said Olivieri always wanted to do what was right and serve others.
“It was in his heart,” said Skrynecki. “If you knew Joe, you’d know that he was the type of guy who took a lot of pride and a lot of personal satisfaction helping people who needed help.”
Friends said Olivieri was tireless – even after being critically injured 12 years ago, he returned to the police force for a job he lived for.
Among the mourners was Officer Ken Baribault, who survived a police stop crash on the L.I.E., but is now wheelchair-bound. Olivieri’s 21-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son followed their father’s police flag-draped casket out of the church.
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Olivieri was struck by a sport-utility vehicle early Thursday morning while responding to a multi-vehicle crash on the L.I.E. The veteran cop had gotten out of his patrol car and was walking to some disabled vehicles in the high-occupancy vehicle lane when he was hit.
The divorced father of two was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
“His kids are having a real hard time going through this,” said Nassau County PBA president James Carver. “It’s a tragic loss, a sudden loss. They were a close family so it makes it tougher.”
Last week, 25-year-old James Ryan was charged with vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a controlled substance, driving while intoxicated and other charges.
Police said Ryan was drunk when he caused the multi-vehicle crash on the expressway that ultimately led to Olivieri’s death.
But Ryan’s attorney, Brian Davis, said that he would have to look into legal precedents for charging his client with manslaughter.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” Davis said. “But it’s far too simplistic to say that but for my client, this would not have happened. There were intervening events between the accident and the officer being struck.”
Ryan pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday and was released on $120,000 bail. His license was also suspended. He is due back in court early next month.
Meanwhile, the driver of the SUV who actually hit Olivieri has not been charged or even identified. Police said the investigation is still ongoing.
Olivieri was the third Nassau County officer of his graduating class to die in the line of duty, and the second killed in two years on the L.I.E.
A highway patrol car now bears Olivieri’s name.
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