Police officer Philip Brady, left, consoles fellow officer John Lasala...

Police officer Philip Brady, left, consoles fellow officer John Lasala as he tries to compose himself to say a few words to the media during the wake for Nassau County Police Officer Geoffrey J. Breitkopf. (March 16, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

Among the hundreds of mourners who came to grieve the death of Geoffrey J. Breitkopf were 70 Nassau police officers dressed in black tactical gear.

They had been, in some ways, his police family since he joined the elite unit in October 2003.

One of the Bureau of Special Operations officers, Louis Lanzillotta, recalled what Breitkopf had said one day: "He told his family, 'If anything happens to me, it happened doing what I loved.' "

The wake for Breitkopf, held Wednesday at the Selden Fire Department where he was a volunteer, was a somber ceremony attended by police, firefighters and politicians. The 12-year veteran had been accidentally shot in the line of duty, by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officer while responding to a crime scene Saturday night in Massapequa Park.

"Geoff was the brother I never had," said John Cunningham, 34, of Hauppauge, who all but collapsed as he recalled moments spent with Breitkopf, his brother-in-law. "I remember going to Woodstock with him and he taught me how to shoot. He brought me my first CD."

Cunningham, who is the brother of Paula Breitkopf, Breitkopf's wife, was overcome with emotion as he spoke to reporters near the Woodmere Place building where Breitkopf spent 14 years as a firefighter.

Cunningham and Ryder hugged each other and Michael Cosgrove, 39, a fellow firefighter who said he loved Breitkopf "like a brother."

Donna Ryder, 45, of Maryland, sister of Cunningham and Paula Breitkopf, said the widow was coping. "She's overwhelmed and so appreciative of everything everyone is trying to do for her, but she's pretty devastated," she said.

Ryder, Cunningham and Cosgrove embraced against a black Bureau of Special Operations Tactical Response Vehicle that officers dedicated to Breitkopf.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey were among the 500 or so mourners who filed into the firehouse, where two Nassau officers on horseback stood like sentries.

Cosgrove of Selden said he met Breitkopf in 1996 while volunteering for the fire department, adding that they became best friends instantly. "He will be dearly missed."

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