Hundreds of mourners paid their respects at a wake Saturday for the Nassau highway patrolman killed while responding to a crash on the Long Island Expressway.
Fellow police officers, friends and family of Joseph Olivieri gathered at the Ronkonkoma Fire Department, where the veteran officer lay in an open casket dressed in his uniform.
"He was such a great man and such an excellent cop. The loss is monumental," said longtime friend Salvatore Costa, 44, of Ronkonkoma. "He loved his family and his community, so he gave all his heart to the job every day. He was my hero."
Neighbor and friend Pauline D'Oriono, of Middle Island, said Olivieri "was a rock we all leaned on."
"He was always there for you, anytime, anywhere. The man cared deeply for his work and truly wanted to serve and protect people. To lose him is so painful," she said.
Another mourner, Cory Carpenzano, 52, of Farmingville, said he has been a friend of the Olivieri family for more than 15 years.
"They are very nice people. I'm here to support the family and try to understand how the whole thing happened," he said.
Olivieri, 43, a 13-year veteran of the Nassau force, died Thursday after being struck by a sport-utility vehicle on the LIE in North Hills.
At the time of the pre-dawn crash, the officer was responding to a wreck caused by an alleged drunken driver. That suspect, James Ryan, 25, of Oakdale, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and other crimes.
Olivieri has been hailed as a "cop's cop" by police officials.
In March 2003, he rushed into a burning Massapequa home in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a woman and her grandson trapped inside. Three years earlier, he was seriously injured patrolling slick streets in the same community when his cruiser overturned, pinning him underneath.
Before joining the Nassau department in 1998, Olivieri served five years with the NYPD. He had two children, Amanda, 21, and Daniel, 18.
The wake was to continue Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at noon Monday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ronkonkoma, followed by burial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.
With Aisha al-Muslim