NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An NYPD detective who was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan is being remembered Tuesday as a selfless public servant, a devoted family man and a true, all-American hero.
Detective Joseph Lemm, 45, of West Harrison, was one of six American service members killed Monday when an attacker rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into their patrol near Bagram Airfield.
Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, a Suffolk County native, was identified as the second area serviceman killed in the deadliest attack on Americans in Afghanistan since August.
Two others were wounded along with an Afghan. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.
Bonacasa was serving his fourth military tour, this time in Afghanistan. He had previously served in Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reported.
Bonacasa was apparently planning on retiring from the armed forces after the end of his deployment, set for April of next year.
When Bonacasa wasn’t overseas, he was stationed in Newburgh. He leaves behind a wife and a 5-year-old daughter.
A statement released by Middle Country School Supt. Roberta Gerold said Bonacasa was “a hero who died protecting the freedoms we enjoy each day.” Bonacasa graduated from Newfield High School in Selden in 2002.
CBS2’s Tony Aiello spoke with Bonacasa’s brother Vinny, who remained stoic in the face of tremendous loss.
“This was supposed to be his last tour. He was just going to come home, buy a house, and raise a family. The way that. The way that it should have been,” Vinny Bonacasa said.
Sgt. Bonacasa joined the Air Force right after graduating from Newfield.
“It was just in his heart to do what he did. He was a great man,” Vinny said.
Lemm, a 15-year veteran of the police department was on his third tour of duty in the Middle East with the Air National Guard. He had been deployed once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
Lemm worked at the 50th Precinct as part of the Bronx Warrant Squad, where black and purple bunting was hanging outside on Tuesday.
His commanding officer, Capt. William Kivlehan, called Lemm “a heck of a cop.”
“He got a lot of violent guys off the street,” Kivlehan said in a conference call with reporters. “He got a lot of guns off the street.”
Residents in the area visited the station house to offer their condolences to Lemm’s family in blue.
“It hurts, it really does,” resident Bill Gately told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “A police officer protecting the City of New York and protecting us in the country.”
Another woman named Victoria stopped by on her way to work. She called Lemm and all of the police in the community her neighbors.
“As soon as I saw his face, I said, ‘I know this guy,'” she told 1010 WINS’ John Montone. “Very nice guy — a nice guy.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Wednesday in Lemm’s honor. He said Lemm “served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed forces and the NYPD.”
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, fellow officers and service members,” Cuomo said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said flags in the city would be at half-staff from Tuesday through Friday.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Lemm was promoted to detective third-grade in January 2014. He received five commendations from the department over the course of his career.
“Detective Joseph Lemm epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for: putting his country and city first,” Bratton said in a statement on Monday.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Lemm’s “selfless dedication to both his city and his country made him truly the finest of the Finest.”
“His memory will be honored and his sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Lynch said in a statement.
De Blasio said news of Lemm’s death “serves as a painful reminder of the debts we owe to the brave men and women in uniform.”
“There can be no greater sacrifice than the one made by a member of our military or our police force, who put their lives on the line to protect Americans,” de Blasio said in a statement. “He gave his life, yet asked for little in return other than to serve his country and his fellow New Yorkers, who may not have known him in life, but mourn his death nonetheless.”
As much as he prided himself as a public servant, Lemm’s most important role was as a husband and father, Burrell reported. He lived in West Harrison with his wife, Christine, and their two children.
In 2013, he was seen in a video surprising his teenage daughter and young son when he returned from a deployment in Afghanistan.
In a statement, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino called Lemm “a true-grit all-American hero.”
“Westchester is on bended knee in sadness over the death of one of our own and the grief that it brings the Lemm family. No words can ease their pain right now but the example of Joseph’s selfless and courageous life will serve as a powerful source of comfort and strength for them, as it does for us all,” said Astorino, who also ordered flags at county buildings to be flown at half-staff. “Our prayers are with his wife Christine and his children Brooke and Ryan and we ask God’s blessing for them.”
According to Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, Lemm and his family moved to the area about four years ago, and he says this is a terrible loss.
The way he treated his family and his children is remarkable,” Ron Belmont, Mayor of Harrison, told CBS2’s Mark Morgan. “That’s what I remember most about him — a great human being and a great guy.”
In a statement, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called the attack “a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also issued a statement of condolences Tuesday to the families of the dead “as they face such heartbreaking news during the holiday season.”
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