NEW YORK — A sea of mourners, expected to reach thousands, gathered Friday outside a suburban New York church for a final salute to officer Brian Moore, who was shot last week while on duty.
Moore, 25, will be eulogized at a funeral at St. James Roman Catholic Church on the South Shore of Long Island, where throngs of officers and local residents assembled on a warm spring morning.
About 30,000 people were expected to attend, including law enforcement officers from across the country. Flags at city and state government buildings have flown at half-staff in his memory all week.
Shortly after 11 a.m., a black hearse stopped outside the church, where eight pallbearers gently lifted Moore’s flag-draped casket as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.”
The casket was carried into the church, past Moore’s family, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife and lines of white-gloved officers standing at salute. The words of the hymn “Be not afraid” filled the vast church as mourners poured inside.
At the service, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Moore’s father and an uncle retired as sergeants from the NYPD. Three cousins were police officers. Moore himself took the police entrance exam at age 17.
“He just couldn’t wait to be old enough to join the force,” de Blasio said.
Moore was a devoted Baltimore Orioles fan, like his father. He adored his German shepherd Smokey, his copper-black Acura. He also loved to sing.
“But noting mattered more than his family,” de Blasio said. The officer was off Mondays and that was a “time he kept sacred” to spend with his mother Irene.
“Brian Moore represents the best of New York City,” the mayor said. “He was brave for sure, but his bravery was matched by his compassion.”
Police Commissioner William Bratton choked up as he promoted Brian, posthumously, to detective first grade. Applause filled the church.
Moore’s death comes at a time when officers across this country are facing criticism, Bratton said.
“We cannot be defined by that criticism,” he said. “What is lost in the shouting and the rhetoric is the context of what we do. A handful of recent incidents, fewer than a dozen, have wrongfully come to define the hundreds of millions of interactions cops have every year.”
Bratton said he has attended too many police funerals since his first in 1970.
“I remember them all,” he said. “All cops do.”
Moore was a “cop’s cop” who was enthusiastic, had an eye for the streets and “could ‘smell a gun,’ as they say,” Bratton said.
“Brian did not hesitate,” the commissioner said. “He never did. The 35,000 men and women of the NYPD do not hesitate.”
Monsignor Robert Romano, the NYPD chaplain, said Moore came from a family of police officers which he described as “the original Blue Bloods.”
“We will never forget our fallen brothers and sisters,” Romano told the congregation. “We will never forget Brian. We will never forget you.”
He said Moore was an American hero and a team player for his family and colleagues on the job.
“We might ask ourselves: ‘Where was God last Saturday?’ ” Romano said. “I could tell you he was in a young man named Brian who accepted a call, a vocation. Just like we priests have a vocation, Brian had a vocation. A vocation to be a peace maker and to be a hero. Brian, like so many of his sisters and brothers, ran always into the trouble, not away from it.”
After the service, Moore’s casket was carried back to the hearse. A sea of fellow officers stood at attention. The flag that had draped his casket was gently folded and presented to Moore’s family outside the church.
The funeral is in Seaford, a town about 30 miles outside New York City that is home to many police officers and firefighters. Moore lived near Seaford, where blue ribbons fluttered from trees and homes in his honor.
“This has really torn apart this community,” Republican Congressman Peter King said before the funeral.
Moore’s death is a stark reminder of the perils of police work at a time when protests have erupted throughout the nation over the sometimes strained relationship between police and the communities they serve. At the funerals of two officers killed late last year, some officers turned their backs on de Blasio, who the police union accused of not supporting law enforcement.
“It’s unfortunate that it takes a tragedy like this to remind people what an outstanding job cops do,” King said. “How they put their lives on the line day in and day out for us, and too often they’re slandered and attacked by the media and politicians.”
Moore and a fellow officer were shot while trying to question a man in Queens on Saturday. He was struck in the head; the other officer was not injured.
“In his very brief career — less than five years — he had already proved himself to be an exceptional young officer,” Bratton said.
Bratton said the fallen officer had a commitment to the job that made him stand out.
“In that career, he had made over 159 arrests protecting and serving the citizens of this city,” he said.
Moore had received two exceptional police service medals.
“We don’t give them out easily,” Bratton said. “He worked for them; he earned them.”
Serving as a New York police officer was Moore’s dream, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“He did everything a good police officer was supposed to do,” he said.
Moore and another officer, Erik Jansen, 30, were sitting in an unmarked police vehicle in Queens on Saturday when they saw a passerby adjusting something in his waistband, according to the NYPD.
Moore, who was driving, pulled up behind the man, later identified as Demetrius Blackwell. Blackwell allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband and opened fire on both officers, who were in the car and had no chance to fire back.
The suspect tried to flee into the backyards of the neighborhood homes, police said. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder, but those charges were upgraded after Moore’s death.
The gun he allegedly used was stolen in Perry, Georgia, in 2011, according to police.