The 5-year-old son of slain NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo on Tuesday accepted the police department’s highest honor on behalf of his dad, a Greenlawn resident killed in the line of duty last year while protecting a young Bronx family from their armed, estranged father.
As Tuozzolo’s own family looked on, he was remembered as someone who embodied the best of those who put their life on the line every day.
Tuozzolo “responded not just as a police officer, but responded as a father when he understood that a family was in danger, that they were being held at gunpoint, a mother and child literally on the brink of such danger,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who placed the medal, bearing 12 white stars on a green ribbon, around the neck of the late officer’s older son, Austin.
“They love coming to see how daddy is honored and they understand that daddy was a hero,” said the sergeant’s wife, Lisa Tuozzolo, in an interview after the ceremony at police headquarters in Manhattan. “They don’t know the specifics, but they know that daddy was a hero. And he’ll always be a hero in their eyes.”
Tuozzolo, who was 41 and served in the NYPD for 19 years, died in November after, police said, he was shot in the confrontation in the Bronx.
On Tuesday, Austin was accompanied by his mother and younger brother, Joseph, 4 — the boys both clad in blue polo shirts — and other family members, including the sergeant’s parents, Denise and Peter, and his brothers, Michael and Peter.
Lisa Tuozzolo, who cried at times during the event and hugged her sons, said she was proud of her husband’s actions that day. She called him “humble and so reserved and so not about the accolades.”
“It’s bittersweet because he wouldn’t be here if my husband didn’t love what he did for the city and for the department, and go 100 percent toward protecting the community that he worked in,” she said. “I know he’s looking down on us and he’s proud. But I want him back.”
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill also spoke at the ceremony, in which he said the department recognizes officers for bravery and heroism in situations that “would have made most people run the other way.”
Tuozzolo answered a 911 call from a friend of the estranged wife of the gunman, Manuel Rosales, 35, of Brentwood, who said he had broken into her Beach Avenue home in the Van Nest section of the Bronx, where she lived with the couple’s 3-year-old son, police said.
Rosales fled in his red Jeep and Tuozzolo spotted the vehicle about a half-mile away at Bronx River and Noble avenues near Noble Playground, police said.
Tuozzolo warned his fellow officers — Sgt. Emmanuel Kwo, Officer Arvid Flores and probationary Officer Elwin Martinez, a recruit just days into field training — shouting repeatedly, “Gun!”
Rosales opened fire, striking Tuozzolo in the head and torso. He died at the hospital. Kwo was hit in the legs several times, but survived. Martinez returned fire and fatally shot Rosales, police said.
Lisa Tuozzolo said her husband’s actions that day reflected his affection for his job and colleagues.
“I would expect nothing less from him,” she said. “That was his demeanor toward his co-workers — he put them first, he protected them, he fought for them, he defended them. He made sure his squad was so well cared for so they could do their job. And they knew he had their back 110 percent. . . . I think his actions of that day proved that.”