Brian Mulkeen could have cashed his ticket in life, never voluntarily putting himself in danger.
The class president of his high school. A star athlete in college. Set for a career on Wall Street. Mulkeen had a wealth of options. A life of comfort and financial opportunity were within reach.
But Mulkeen strove for a higher purpose in the NYPD.
On Friday, Mulkeen, 33, who was killed Sunday morning by friendly fire during a struggle with an armed suspect in the Bronx, was remembered as a selfless hero who bravely took on gun runners, drug dealers and gang members.
"He was nothing short of extraordinary," said an emotional NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, wiping back tears during Mulkeen's funeral Mass, where the fallen officer was posthumously promoted to detective first grade. "Brian was a special person. He did his job and he didn't think twice about it.
"He didn't hesitate because he's a cop."
The funeral, held in bucolic Monroe upstate, attracted police from throughout the state, including Nassau and Suffolk, and from as far away as Boston and Chicago. Thousands of uniformed law enforcement officers stood at attention before the 90-minute service, often five or six deep, along a quarter mile of Still Road outside the Church of the Sacred Heart.
As the Orange County town where Mulkeen was raised was engulfed by a tidal wave of blue uniforms, civilians wandered along the route, some holding flags to honor their local hero. Schools in Monroe were closed Friday while businesses posted signs expressing sorrow and condolences.
While about 50 miles from Manhattan, Mulkeen's service had all the pomp and circumstance afforded to NYPD officers who die in the line of duty. Trumpets played taps. Eight police helicopters from across the department circled overhead as horns played "America the Beautiful." A hearse carrying Mulkeen's body was flanked by four officers on either side while his coffin was draped in a green-and-white NYPD flag.
Msgr. Robert J. Romano, an NYPD chaplain, said Mulkeen knew the risks of the job but never wavered in his commitment to the city and its people.
"Long after we are gone the department will remember Brian," Romano said. "He will be remembered for what happened that morning of Sept. 29. That night Brian became a hero. But to us he always was a hero."
Mulkeen graduated from Monroe-Woodbury High School in 2004, where he served as class president. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in finance from Fordham University. He was a two-year captain for the track and field team, competing in the weight throw and hammer throw. Earlier this year, he rejoined his alma mater as a volunteer throwing coach.
Mulkeen had worked at Merrill Lynch, but he left Wall Street to pursue his passion to serve and protect others.
He began his career as a dispatcher for the Town of Tuxedo Police Department, then graduated from Ulster County Law Enforcement Training Group program. Seven years ago he fulfilled his dream to join the NYPD, working in the Bronx's 48th Precinct before moving to the borough's elite Anti-Crime Unit — a plainclothes team focused on removing illegal firearms from the streets and responding to violent crime.
Mulkeen made about 270 arrests during his career, many of which involved taking illegal guns off the streets, authorities said. Even on the night of his death, Mulkeen made a gun arrest, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mulkeen genuinely cared about the community he patrolled, de Blasio said, pointing to the 15-year-old Bronx teen the officer arrested two years ago for assault and possession of stolen property. Mulkeen kept in touch with the youth, often inviting him to play hoops and making sure he stayed on the straight and narrow.
"He was so filled with ability and promise … He could have taken an easier path," de Blasio said. "But that wasn't Brian. He wanted to be on the front line. He wanted to protect people."
Early Sunday morning, Mulkeen was shot and killed near the Edenwald Houses, a public housing complex in the Bronx that has seen a recent uptick in gang activity and shootings.
The suspect, identified as Antonio Williams, 27, ran from officers when they attempted to question him about an illegal weapon. Two bullets fired from the guns of his fellow officers struck Mulkeen as he struggled on the ground with Williams, O’Neill said. Officers shot and killed Williams, 27, as he attempted to grab Mulkeen’s weapon in the struggle, the NYPD said.
O'Neill Friday said Williams was solely to blame for Mulkeen's death.
"As every cop knows, one person is responsible for Brian’s death," O'Neill said. "And that’s the person carrying a loaded, illegal gun and decided to run from the police. Every cop knows that, and every New Yorker should know that."
It was the second time an NYPD officer had been killed by friendly fire this year. In February, NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, of Calverton, died after he was hit as he and other officers responded to a robbery in Queens.
Mulkeen is survived by his parents, Brian and Camille; his sister, Erin; his brother, Eric; his grandfather Charles Pompa, a retired NYPD detective; and his longtime girlfriend, Sherry, a police officer in the 44th Precinct in the Bronx.