NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton promoted slain New York City Police Officer Randolph Holder to detective Wednesday, as family, friends and fellow law enforcement officers said their final goodbyes.
The funeral for Officer Holder was held Wednesday afternoon at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, Queens.
Holder’s body will later be sent to his native Guyana for burial. About a dozen NYPD officers will represent the department at Holder’s burial, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.
At the funeral, police Commissioner Bill Bratton emphasized that Holder devoted his life to keeping people safe.
“What makes a police officer? Is it courage? Is it compassion? Is it the calling? I would say to you, it’s all of these. All things make a cop – but one thing most of all – we keep people safe. It’s what we do,” Bratton said. “It’s what Police Officer Randolph Holder did so proudly throughout his all too brief career. Keeping people safe is what brought Randy to the job.”
The mission of keeping people safe, Bratton said, was also what brought Holder and his partner, Officer Omar Wallace, to the East River footbridge in East Harlem where Holder was shot and killed on Oct. 20.
He went on to promote Holder to detective posthumously.
“We send you on your way to an assignment to be a guardian angel at the gates of heaven,” Bratton said.
Also addressing the congregants, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for unity between police officers and the communities they serve.
“We can learn from him that the police and the community must become one, because at the root of it all, we are one,” Mayor de Blasio said.
Holder’s stepmother wiped away tears and clung tightly to his father, Randolph Holder Sr. The elder Holder was met with thunderous applause when he accepted a gold shield from Bratton for his son’s posthumous promotion.
Officer Holder’s new shield number as detective is 9657 – the same number as his father.
Holder, a five-year veteran, and Officer Wallace had been chasing a man after responding to a call of shots fired and a bicycle stolen at gunpoint. Authorities allege the suspect hopped off the stolen bicycle and shot Holder in the head.
Holder always wanted to be a police officer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who served as officers in Guyana. That dream came true in 2010 when he joined the New York Police Department and was assigned to a unit that patrolled the city’s public housing complexes.
At the funeral, Mayor de Blasio emphasized that throughout history, villages appointed guardians – a position now held by police officers.
“The police are our guardians. They are of and by and for us,” de Blasio said. “Randolph Holder never stopped thinking about his heritage and his family, and he knew that he came from a family of guardians. And he showed us how to stay true to that tradition.”
Rev. Dr. Leslie Mullings gave words of comfort to Holder’s friends and loved ones, saying he did not die in vain. Mullings offered hope that Holder’s death would act as a catalyst for change, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“Where cops and community will work hand in hand together to protect our citizens. Where cops will be respected by community and community will be respected by cops,” Mullings said.
Holder’s brother and aunt also gave readings. His high school sweetheart and fiance — perhaps the one who knew Holder the best — reflected on his life.
“To simply wear the uniform of an officer is an act of courage,” said fiance Maryiane Muhammad. “You have chosen to be both target and hero. It could be argued that to be a loved one of an officer, we chose the same fate.”
Meanwhile, through the whipping wind and steady rain, a massive wall of NYPD officers stood firm outside the cathedral, paying tribute to their fallen brother.
“Senseless. Just senseless tragedies,” Patrick Fazio, a retired housing cop, told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “When you don’t think twice about taking a life of a cop, I mean what does that tell you.”
The NYPD had prepared for a massive turnout at the church, and blocked off Merrick Boulevard and the surrounding streets to account for the crowd, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.
Many law enforcement officers from across the country traveled to New York to pay their respects.
“In Washington State, we often see a lot of support for our fallen from the East Coast and so we would just like to return the favor,” said Isiah Harris of the Tukwila Police Department. “From what I can tell the community really appreciated him, and his coworkers looked up to him and that says a lot.”
“A few years ago we had four officers in Lakewood who were killed at the same time and it brings it home,” Tukwila Police Sgt. Todd Rossi said.
And there were also local residents gathering, like Loraine Stephen, who are trying to find goodness in the tragedy, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
Steven, who is also from Guyana but did not know Holder, said his work trying to make the city safer makes her proud and there’s a lesson for others.
“The other young men should try and let his death be an example for them. If he came here and did what he did, they can also do that,” she said.
Hundreds of fellow officers gathered Tuesday afternoon for Holder’s wake, some waiting in line for hours, for a chance to offer their condolences and console his family. Mayor Bill de Blasio, former and current Police Commissioners Ray Kelly and Bill Bratton, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the family of slain police officer Wenjian Liu were among them.
Holder’s family members remembered him as a man whose family and heritage were his No. 1 priority.
“He was a very outgoing person, very giving and very caring, especially for the family back home,” his aunt Ruth Noel said. “It’s a great loss in Guyana, too, not just here.”
During a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police at Chicago’s McCormick Place Tuesday, President Barack Obama also paid tribute to Holder saying, “Each fallen police officer is one too many.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a frequent police critic, had been scheduled to deliver the eulogy at Holder’s funeral on Wednesday, but he said Tuesday he changed his mind because he didn’t want to spark a confrontation that could turn the funeral into a “sideshow.”
The suspect in Holder’s death, 30-year-old Tyrone Howard, has been charged with first-degree murder and robbery. A grand jury has indicted him, but the charges won’t be announced until a state Supreme Court arraignment on Nov. 24. His attorney has said there are missing details in the case.
Investigators spent hours Tuesday night at 120th Street and FDR Drive where the 33-year-old officer was killed. They stopped traffic and handed out flyers, hoping someone with more information on the case comes forward, Gold reported.
Police have linked a gun recovered from the East River to the deadly shooting. They say it was purchased in South Carolina and hadn’t been used in other crimes.
Investigators are trying to figure out who stole the gun and track down the original owner.
Holder is the fourth officer from the NYPD to be killed in the last 11 months.
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