Retired police officers and family members of police who died in the line of duty gathered Sunday at a Roman Catholic Mass in New Hyde Park to honor law enforcement, two days after the Bronx killing of an NYPD sergeant from Greenlawn.
“One of the reasons we’re here today . . . is to of course acknowledge those police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, for doing the work that God wanted them to do, for doing what they were supposed to be doing,” the Rev. Frank Grieco said at the regularly scheduled 11 a.m. Mass, which included portions devoted to police officers’ service.
The name of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, 41, of Greenlawn, who died Friday in a Bronx shootout, was added to a list read at the service of 32 police officers in New York State who have been killed in the line of duty or died from 9/11-related illnesses since 2012.
The “Blue Mass,” which honors law enforcement personnel and their families, was the first held at the Church of the Holy Spirit and had been scheduled months in advance.
About two dozen people sat in pews reserved for police and family members of police, including Wei Tang Liu and Xiu Yan Li, the parents of Wenjian Liu, 32, who was one of two NYPD officers shot to death in December 2014 as they sat in a patrol car in Brooklyn.
Liu’s father, Wei Tang, pulled out a white handkerchief during the service and wiped away tears.
Ed Dwyer, 79, a retired telephone worker from Elmont, who said his son Anthony was killed in 1989 while pursuing a burglary suspect, was among a handful of surviving family members of police killed in the line of duty at the service.
“You just don’t want them to be forgotten,” Dwyer said before the service began. Asked about the killing of Tuozzolo, Dwyer said “it just shows there’s still bad people out there.”
Richard Bermudez, president of the New York Order of Police Memorial Lodge 100, which sponsored the Blue Mass, said it was “a remembrance that police officers are out there every day laying their lives on the line for the community.”
Parishioners said they were moved by the service, and that the presence of grieving parents like Liu’s brought them to tears.
“Just seeing them made everything seem more real,” said longtime parishioner Kathy Lai, 66, of Westbury. “I don’t understand people today, how they’re so . . . disrespectful of the police.”