A month later, and the pain remains strong for the 32nd Precinct, and all who knew Police Officer Jason Rivera.
When Rivera and his partner, Police Officer Wilbert Mora, were shot in a Harlem apartment on Jan. 21 while responding to a domestic dispute, New York City mourned alongside the NYPD at the loss of two heroic young men who served the city they loved.
New Yorkers brought words of encouragement to their funerals, the two slain officers were posthumously promoted to the rank of detective, and the Big Apple grieved as one — but as the news cycle moved on, so did the city. Yet Rivera’s community and the 32nd Precinct cannot move on so easily; their hearts still weigh heavy with bereavement.
A mural depicting the likeness of Rivera has been painted upon the wall of Washington Heights Academy on 204th Street and Sherman Avenue, the late 22-year-old’s childhood stomping grounds. Rivera’s face looks down upon the community he served, a detective’s badge on his chest that he never got to wear in life. Almost a month after he was killed, passersby still look up at his face and mutter the detective’s name, the grief still fresh.
With the one-month anniversary of his death on Monday, the commanding officer of the 32nd Precinct, Inspector Amir Yakatally, and members of Rivera’s squad visited the mural to remember their brother in blue.
“We are grieving still but we are prioritizing mental and emotional health and we are also supporting each other in our own way, just leaning on each other for support,” Inspector Yakatally told amNewYork Metro as he looked up at the visage of his fallen officer.
Yakatally explained that this was the first time he had seen the mural in person, and that it was a difficult and emotional experience.
“Sadness comes to mind. What comes to mind is a public servant who gave his life doing what he promised to do, what he was sworn to do,” Yakatally said. “You know, he had a vision and a mindset of what we all want in common, and we lost that. But I also see hope. I see a beacon of alliance between policing and community. You know, I see children feeling inspired and safe because his smile alone is welcoming and captivating, I mean this mural itself inspires trust in police.”
For Yakatally, the mural does far more than honor a lost officer and friend, it emphasizes a community who is striving to keep their son’s memory alive.
“It’s heartwarming to see this because the support shows we believe in a common purpose. The police and the community are shown sharing pain right now. They accept Jason as one of their own, it shows collective grieving, and it shows they understand the gravity of our loss and appreciate what we do,” Yakatally said.
It was clear during the visit that the officers are still greatly suffering, the pain visibly etched on their faces as they stole glances at Rivera’s rendering.
Eyes welling with both sorrow for Rivera’s loss and appreciation for the community, Yakatally thanked New Yorkers for their support and explained that simply stopping by and saying “Hi” goes a long way.
“First of all, I want to say thank you to the community because the public support goes a long way towards helping,” Yakatally shared. “Approach an officer and say ‘Hi.’ Ask how their day is. I promise you’ll get at least a smile. Look beyond the blue. Because just like Jason, we are your brothers and sisters.”