Thousands Say Goodbye To Dennis Guerra, NYPD Officer Killed In Coney Island Fire
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Friends, family and fellow police officers bid an emotional final farewell Monday to NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra, who died after being critically hurt in a fire on Coney Island.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, thousands of police officers – and more than 10,000 people at all – lined the streets at Guerra’s funeral at the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, at 130 Beach 84th St. in Rockaway Beach, Queens. The hearse carrying Guerra’s remains passed through the beachside community, as NYPD helicopters performed a flyover and hundreds made their way into the funeral.
“It is very fitting. He was loved and adored by everybody he worked with and all who knew him,” Deputy Inspector Carlos Valdez told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
The 38-year-old was an eight-year veteran of the NYPD and lived in Far Rockaway with his wife Cathy and their four children – Kathleen, 20; Jonathan, 17; Alyssa, 14; and Zachary, 7.
“Dennis was a great cop and an even better person,” Valdez, Guerra’s commanding officer, told CBS 2’s Schneider. “He served this department with dignity and honor.”
Officer Guerra’s father, Denitor Guerra, is a retired NYPD detective who now works as an investigator for the New York State Attorney General’s office.
“It’s very difficult — imagine a father who wore the proud uniform of an NYPD detective to now have to stand before this church, realizing this funeral is for his son,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch. “It’s not supposed to be like that.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio was among those who spoke at the fallen officer’s funeral and announced a posthumous promotion for Guerra.
“The example of valor and devotion to duty that he set,” de Blasio said. “For that reason, the commissioner has chosen to posthumously promote to first-grade Detective Dennis Guerra.”
After the service, Guerra was laid to rest at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village.
“It was heart-wrenching – you know, just being in a position that my son’s an officer, and you know, there’s another mother here who had lost a son,” said family friend Theresa Fabara. “It’s hard – very hard.”
On Sunday, police, firefighters and other mourners gathered for a public wake in Ozone Park.
“We know Dennis will always live on,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “His countless acts of generosity in the lives he protected and in the city he helped make safer.”
On April 6, Guerra and his partner, Officer Rosa Rodriguez, were responding to a fire at a high-rise on Surf Avenue when they were both overcome by carbon monoxide and smoke.
Guerra succumbed to his injuries three days later.
Rodriguez was still being treated for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center as of Monday afternoon. She was reported in critical, but stable, condition.
“She’s in still very serious condition,” PBA president Patrick Lynch said. “She’s far from out of the woods and you can imagine the fear that her family has knowing that Officer Guerra passed away and officer Rodriguez’s family has to deal with that worry.”
Lynch said he wasn’t shocked to see a massive sea of blue at Guerra’s funeral.
“Any one of us can go on that radio run and this could happen,” he said.
Marcell Dockery, 16, was indicted on a second-degree murder charge in connection with Guerra’s death last week. He is also charged with arson, assault and reckless endangerment.
Police said Dockery allegedly lit a mattress on fire in the hallway of the building. Police said he confessed to starting the fire because he was bored.
Sources said Dockery has a history of setting fires, but his attorney is questioning what his role was in this fire.
“Did he attempt to put it out? Did he attempt to knock on doors and warn other people so their lives wouldn’t be in danger? Those are the kinds of questions that will be decided by a jury,” said attorney Jesse Young.
While Rodriguez remains in critical condition, her family is attending Guerra’s funeral on Monday. Her daughters were also at his wake on Sunday.
Police said Guerra is the first NYPD officer to die in the line of duty since 2011, when Officer Peter Figoski was shot and killed while responding to a robbery in Brooklyn.
Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com: