NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra 'didn't die in vain,' says top cop Bratton
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An NYPD officer who died after being trapped in a Coney Island high-rise fire last week was remembered Monday at a packed Far Rockaway church as a selfless cop who instinctively rushed inside to save lives and paid with his own.
Hundreds filled St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church for Dennis Guerra's funeral Mass. The service was performed by the priest who married Guerra and also included the officer's posthumous promotion to first-grade detective by Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.
His voice quavering, Bratton eulogized Guerra and recounted the heroics that cost him his life.
"Dennis gave it all -- all the time. He was a cop's son and a cop's cop," Bratton told those crowded into the church as well as thousands more outside who listened on loudspeakers. "Dennis did not die in vain."
Guerra's father, also named Dennis, is a retired NYPD detective. The fallen officer's wife Cathy and his children Kathleen, 20, Jonathan, 17, Alyssa, 14, and Zachary, 7, also attended the service.
Guerra died early Wednesday of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning after he and officer Rosa Rodriguez, both of Queens, were overcome by dense smoke and toxic fumes in the April 6 fire. Rodriguez, 36, remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
Mayor Bill De Blasio, delivering remarks at his first police funeral as mayor, attended with his wife, Chirlane McCray. The mayor described how Guerra helped those devastated by superstorm Sandy, even as his own family was hit hard by the storm.
"During those desperate days, Dennis regularly reported for duty well before dawn," the mayor said. "He climbed the cold, pitch-dark high-rise stairways of Red Hook houses with food and blankets and other essential supplies -- and with something else people badly needed at that moment -- reassurance and a smile."
That same spirit filled Guerra when he and his partner raced into mortal danger inside the burning Coney Island housing project, de Blasio said.
"Duty also came first eight days ago when, without a heartbeat's hesitation, he and officer Rosa Rodriguez did what so many wouldn't have had the courage to do," de Blasio said.
The Rev. Fulgencio Gutierrez, who officiated at Guerra's marriage ceremony, Monday delivered the funeral homily.
"When I hear all the good things that family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors say about officer Guerra, it is evident that this virtue, the courage to make the ultimate sacrifice, was developing in his heart day by day," Gutierrez said.
Marcell Dockery, the teen accused of starting the mattress fire that led to Guerra's death, faces felony murder, among other charges. With Gary Dymski