The crowd gathered solemnly at the Steven McDonald Garden of Forgiveness in Malverne Sunday evening to pay tribute to slain NYPD Officer Jason Rivera and critically wounded Officer Wilbert Mora, who were shot while responding to a domestic dispute call on Friday.
The vigil was attended by several dozen local residents, officials and clergy, who held candles in honor of the officers ambushed Friday night responding to a mother-son dispute. Rivera, 22, was shot and killed inside the Harlem apartment unit.
Mora, 27, was transferred Sunday from Harlem Hospital to NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, officials said.
Police have identified the suspect as Lashawn McNeil, 47, who was shot and critically wounded by a third cop who had responded to the original call, on West 135th Street near Malcolm X Boulevard.
NYPD Officer Lewis Larra, 23, who graduated with Rivera from the police academy and is assigned to Harlem's 32nd Precinct along with the two officers, spoke at the vigil.
"Last night I came, drove up to the precinct, parked my car and I had butterflies in my stomach because after the whole incident it’s very unfortunate to walk into a precinct when you have two fellow officers that are no longer there," Larra said. "We’re just taking it day by day."
He said the loss has taken a toll on him and his colleagues, but said he was happy to see the community’s support.
"I’ve been in tears since I found out the news about Officer Rivera being killed Friday night and that’s why we’re here tonight," said Doris Aresta, who organized the vigil. "If anyone in this crowd knows me, they know I back the blue."
Aresta, whose husband and son are in law enforcement, said she was heartbroken over Rivera's loss.
"A 22-year old young man, I call him a kid," she said. "He could’ve been one of my children and he’s gone."
The garden where the vigil was held honors McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed while in the line of duty in Central Park in 1986.
He went on to become an activist preaching to overcome the cycle of violence with love, respect and forgiveness. He died in 2017, at the age of 59, after a heart attack.
On the five-year anniversary of McDonald’s death earlier this month, officials had gathered at Manhattan's St. Patrick’s Cathedral to remember him at a Mass offered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
At the vigil Sunday night, Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said officers will be back there to mourn the death of yet another fallen officer.
"Unfortunately, this Friday we’ll be back in St. Patrick’s and we’re saying goodbye to another hero and somewhere there'll be a park built and put in his name because we promise to never forget," Ryder said.
"It’s part of what we do in law enforcement to never forget our fallen," he said. "Always remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice."