Since he was a kid, NYPD Officer Jason Rivera had always wanted to join the force. He'd watch cop show after cop show, and would dream at night about becoming an officer, said his brother, Jeffrey Rivera.
For Officer Wilbert Mora, the story is much the same. In high school, Mora would speak endlessly about becoming a police officer, about helping improve relations between police and the public, said his friend, Rashad Mujumder.
On Friday evening, the two officers responded to a domestic dispute between a mother and son in Harlem, and the son allegedly started shooting without warning, according to police. Rivera, 22, was shot and killed. Mora, 27, also shot, remains hospitalized in critical condition.
A third officer on the scene fired back and struck the shooting suspect, Lashawn McNeil, 47, in the head and arm, police said. McNeil was in critical condition at Harlem hospital, according to police.
Mayor Eric Adams visited Mora at Harlem hospital, where a phalanx of police officers gathered Saturday to stand in solidarity. President Joe Biden tweeted his sympathies.
Jeffrey Rivera, 27, the older brother of the slain officer, said his sibling loved being a member of New York's Finest.
"Since we were babies, he wanted to be a police officer," said Rivera, of Yonkers. "He would watch cop shows all the time. He would have dreams at night."
Officer Jason Rivera said it best in a letter he wrote to the commanding officer of the police academy in November 2020, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday. He wrote of his experience growing up in Manhattan's Inwood neighborhood, where relations were strained with police.
"I was too young to know that during that time, the NYPD was pulling over and frisking people at a high rate," Rivera wrote.
He said his perspective on the police and the way they acted "really bothered me."
Rivera detailed how he once watched his brother, Jeffrey, get stopped and frisked after they were pulled over in a taxi. His brother also recalled the incident.
"One night we went out to celebrate his birthday. We got pulled over in a taxi," Jeffrey Rivera said, recalling that his brother was about 13 at the time. "I ended up spending the night in jail."
Jeffrey Rivera said police found a pocket knife on him, but the charges were dropped.
In his "Why I Became a Police Officer" letter, Jason Rivera talked about the NYPD "pushing hard" to improve police relations with the community, and how he wanted to be part of that.
"Growing up in New York City, I realized how impactful my role as a police officer would go in this chaotic city of about 10 million people," he wrote. "I know that something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue, will put a smile on someone’s face."
He also expressed the pride of coming from an immigrant family and "becoming the first to say I am a member of the NYPD. The greatest police force in the world."
Jeffrey Rivera said his brother was married and had no children.
Mora also loves being on the force, said his friend Mujumder, 26, of the Bronx.
Mora and Mujumder met in their freshman year at the High School for Graphic Communication Arts in Manhattan, and they attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice together. They shared a love of the music of Drake and Kayne West, he said.
He said Mora was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at a young age, his family seeking a better life.
"He took a lot of pride in being a police officer, especially being a young Hispanic man," Mujumder said. "He wanted to be someone people could look up to."
Beyond that, Mora wanted to "change the narrative" between law enforcement and the community, he said.
Mujumder said Mora is "a most supportive friend."
"He was my No. 1 fan," Mujumder said. "I graduated law school recently, and he was always checking up on me, making sure I was studying."
Mujumder said he had just come home from visiting Mora at the hospital Saturday, having spent the night there. He said Mora had undergone surgery and doctors were hoping he would rally the strength to wake up.
Mora helps support his mother and father, Mujumder said. He has an older brother and sister, according to his friend.
Mora's mother has remained at her son's bedside, Mujumder said.
"She's a mess," he said. "She's trying to do the best she can to be calm, to give him strength."
Marlene Nuñez, 22, and Regine Colo, 23, who both attended Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in Washington Heights with Rivera, were at a candlelight vigil for Rivera and Mora outside the 32nd Precinct in Harlem on Saturday night.
Colo said Rivera "was one of the most funniest people we know and also a really good friend, empathetic friend."
"Last time I spoke to him was like a couple of months ago," Nuñez recalled. "I asked him for any advice or tips because I also want to be in law enforcement so he was giving me a couple of tips."
With John Asbury and Lorena Mongelli