NEW YORK (AP) — Officers massed by the thousands on Fifth Avenue for New York City's second police funeral in less than a week, saluting Officer Wilbert Mora hours after yet another colleague was shot and wounded elsewhere in the city.
Once again, city leaders stood in St. Patrick's Cathedral to hail a fallen officer's selflessness and try to both reassure and rouse a city worried about violence, and a grieving family pressed officials to crack down on crime. Mora and his police partner, Jason Rivera, were shot Jan. 21 while responding to a call about a domestic argument in a Harlem apartment.
“How many Wilberts and how many Jasons, how many more police officers, will have to lose their lives so that the system changes?” Mora's sister, Karina Mora, asked those gathered. “New York police officers protect us, but who protects them?”
"Legislators, crime ended the lives of two exemplary young men who only offered their best to their city,” she said. “Take action. Enough is enough.”
Mora’s funeral came shortly after the sixth shooting this year of an NYPD officer.
Two men approached and shot an off-duty police officer at a Queens traffic light as he drove to work Tuesday night, police said. Wounded in the shoulder, the officer was hospitalized in stable condition Wednesday, and two men were arrested.
“Last night, we were reminded again about the danger and overproliferation of guns,” New York Mayor Eric Adams, a retired police captain who took office last month, said at Mora's funeral.
“This has been a painful last few weeks, but the pain unites us in this moment,” the Democrat added, vowing to “build a city of peace out of the ashes of fear.”
The nation's most populous city confronted a series of high-profile crimes last month, including the officers' deaths, a deadly subway shove under Times Square, a stray-bullet shooting of a baby and a deadly robbery at a fast-food restaurant.
After hitting record lows, killings have risen in recent years to about where they were a decade ago — well below an early-1990s peak. Still, Adams has said “actual crime and the perception of crime” are creating a sense of crisis.
“It is New Yorkers against the killers, and we will not lose,” he said Wednesday, pledging to give police “the resources to fight this violence.”
Mora, a Dominican immigrant, came to the U.S. in childhood. He grew into a strapping 6-foot-3-inch-tall (1.9-meter) man, but his gentle, inviting demeanor belied his imposing physique, relatives and colleagues said.
People gravitated toward him “because they could lower their defenses and be themselves” around him, his brother Wilson Mora said in a eulogy.
Meanwhile, he was “a man full of dreams,” Karina Mora said. “Dreams that today won’t come true.”
Wilbert Mora joined the police force in 2018, after graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As a student who’d grown up in East Harlem, he hoped to help reshape relations between the New York Police Department and communities that have chafed at its tactics.
"He always wanted to be his best and be a voice for his community, in spite of the risks that he was exposed to. He was our pride,” cousin Claribel Jiminian said.
Mora made 33 arrests during his few years on the job, while impressing fellow officers and supervisors as humble, helpful, eager to learn and keen to cultivate bonds with co-workers.
“He policed with empathy and believed in protecting his fellow man, regardless of the danger to himself,” his precinct commander, Inspector Amir Yakatally, said in a eulogy.
Dedicated, thorough and an aspiring sergeant, “he was a guy to rely on to make the right call,” Yakatally said.
On the night of the shooting, Mora “asked all the right questions and gave instructions to the younger officers, with the primary goal of de-escalation,” Yakatally said, but the seemingly routine call quickly spiraled into gunfire.
A man in the apartment, Lashawn McNeil, swung open a bedroom door and began shooting, hitting Mora and Rivera, police said. Officials said a third officer, rookie Sumit Sulan, shot McNeil as he tried to flee. McNeil, 47, later died of his wounds.
Sulan is “a hero to save the lives of his fellow officers,” Adams said.
Mora’s contributions to others continued after his death, when the 27-year-old’s organs were donated to five different people in need.
“Wilbert was the perfect candidate to join the NYPD.... It was all he ever wanted to do,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Wednesday as she posthumously promoted him to detective, as Rivera was during his funeral Friday.
After Cardinal Timothy Dolan presided over Mora's funeral, a phalanx of officers stretched for blocks along Fifth Avenue, their white-gloved hands rising in a rolling salute to the hearse carrying Mora's casket, escorted by scores of police motorcycles and several helicopters above. A large American flag hung over the storied avenue.
“Any time you hear that another officer was killed, you know it’s a reality in our profession, but it’s still shocking, nonetheless," said Philadelphia Police Capt. Stephen Clark, a 26-year police veteran. "We train to stay alive, and we train to prevent that from happening. So it’s always a shock.”
This story has been corrected to show that Rivera and Mora were shot Jan. 21, not Jan. 22.
Associated Press writer Claudia Torrens contributed to this report.