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Impromptu NYPD memorial attracts flowers, prayers -- and hope

New York City police officers visit the makeshift

New York City police officers visit the makeshift memorial for slain NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos at the intersection of Tompkins Avenue and Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn on Tuesday, December 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Some people knelt and prayed Tuesday. Others cried and placed flowers. An expanding array of candles and mementos lined the red-brick wall that has become a makeshift memorial for two fallen officers.

"I feel very hurt for them," said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident and retired engineer Lydia Rodriguez, 62, who bent over and made the sign of the cross several times in front of the memorial for the two NYPD officers shot dead in the line of duty on a Brooklyn street Saturday. "And it's the holiday. Their family, themselves -- it was a senseless, senseless thing to happen."

Almost from the moment the memorial was set up, the corner of Tompkins and Myrtle avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area drew countless colleagues of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, many arriving in their uniforms and badges.

Both officers were shot at point-blank range Saturday afternoon when Ismaaiyl Brinsley -- a man who police said was bent on killing police officers -- walked up to them as they sat in a marked car, and fired in what has been called a cold-blooded ambush.

The American flag, the NYPD shield and a mural bearing photos of the slain officers stood as centerpieces in what has become a 25-foot-long shrine to Liu and Ramos. The articles left at the site include a gray NYPD sweatshirt that bore the handwritten words "bless the NYPD" and "God Bless Officer Ramos Officer Liu" and "RIP." All the officers wore a black band over their badges as a sign of mourning.

The officers, as well as some FDNY supporters, formed a semicircle in the middle of the street in front of where Ramos and Liu were shot. Chief of Community Affairs Joanne Jaffe and Chief of Department James O'Neill stopped by separately to pay their respects.

Ramos' cousin Ronnie Gonzalez and others said the memorial is a symbol of respect for the officers and the entire force and the start of a healing process.

"I'm glad we're coming together through this, but I'm also sad that it took the death of two police officers for the city to unite like this," Gonzalez said. "It shouldn't have to be that way. It shouldn't have to be where somebody dies for us to come together."

He added: "We hope the city can unite and stop blaming each other or the mayor."

People of many races and faiths came from the surrounding neighborhood, the Bronx and even from New Jersey, some in work clothes and others in jeans and hoodies, with one common hope: that the violence in this city, and rising tensions over who's to blame for it, would end.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, quietly stopped by to pay respects Tuesday.

Gonzalez left holding a plaque with his cousin's NYPD photo and the NYPD logo on it. He hugged an officer and looked upset before getting into a car bearing Ramos' name, along with "RIP cuz" and "end of watch" and the date of the shooting, Dec. 20, 2014.

At 2:47 p.m. -- the time when Brinsley began firing on Saturday -- a moment of silence was observed across the city, from City Hall to dozens of police precincts.

The memorial was "beautiful," resident Rodriguez said, adding that she hopes the community will come together now.

"We have to get along," she said. "NYPD is helping us, they take care of us and they protect us. So we have to protect them and take care of them also. . . . Maybe there's going to be a change now," she said, tears streaming down her face.

"I just feel sorry for the situation," said Hakim Wray, 35, who lives two blocks away from the scene and added he's not surprised the memorial had grown "because of the fact that we have all these protests and it seemed like a black on white thing and also a cop on civilian thing. It's really not. Wrong is wrong. This was definitely wrong."

Wray, a real estate broker who has a family member who is a retired officer, lit a candle and placed it among the scores of others.

"It's more of just support," he said. "They have a tough job. At the end of the day, everybody deserves to go home. They didn't deserve that."

Correction Officer Mathew Joseph, 27, took time during his day off to visit the memorial.

"I just wanted to pay my respects to New York's Finest," said Joseph, who traveled from the Bronx. "It means hopefully the city is going to come together and be one. And start working together as one."

His father, Bergenfield, New Jersey, resident Jacob Joseph, 66, shook the hand of an officer as a show of respect.

"They are doing their job and we have to be supportive of them," the elder Joseph said.

With Zachary R. Dowdy


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