The New York Times

September 18, 2004

For Detective, the Show Was the Thing


Gathering under a swampy gray sky in Brooklyn, thousands of mourners said their farewells yesterday to Detective Robert L. Parker, ending an agonizing week of wakes and eulogies for the detective and his partner, who was slain along with him.

The two men were killed on Sept. 10 as they confronted a domestic violence suspect, and the services for Detective Parker, 43, followed those for his partner, Detective Patrick H. Rafferty, 39, who was laid to rest on Long Island on Wednesday.

In a ceremony marked as much by the tattered emotions on display as the bewilderment of its circumstances, city officials, friends and co-workers gathered inside the Christian Cultural Center on the East New York-Canarsie border and painted a vivid portrait of a man dedicated both to his job and to entertaining those around him. Several of them stopped and started again, barely able to choke back tears.

At 6 feet 4 inches and well over 200 pounds, Detective Parker was an indelible presence in the Brooklyn neighborhoods he lived in and patrolled for decades. An only child who grew up in Crown Heights, at one point he wrestled semiprofessionally under the name Bootsy Parker, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

"When you're a man the size of Bobby," Mr. Bloomberg said, "you can call yourself anything you want."

In his custom-made suits and silk ties, "Bobby looked like a bona fide television detective," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Of course, the dangers he faced weren't the fabrication of television writers, but real criminals and real threats. Sadly, all too real."

Still, in the company of a man who was repeatedly likened to a big teddy bear but who single-handedly arrested a murder suspect surrounded by 10 friends in a restaurant, some of those dangers seemed to fade away for those who rode with him.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told the audience that one of Detective Parker's former partners had said that when they delivered subpoenas to members of organized crime, he felt comforted by the hulking detective. The two would ring the doorbell, and the door would open, Mr. Kelly said, adding, "They would see Bobby, they would take the papers very politely and say thank you."

As mourners rose to speak, some touching the coffin draped in the green, white and blue Police Department flag, they returned again and again to Detective Parker's lust for life, his sense of humor and his generosity of spirit. One of his superiors at the 67th Precinct in Flatbush, Deputy Inspector Vincent Di Donato, spoke of the detective's love of popular culture and how it led him to have rings made for himself and his squad mates like those worn on the "Magnum, P.I." television show.

He was such a devoted fan of "Star Trek" that he inspired someone to dress up in a costume from the show to attend his wake, the inspector said. And the outgoing message on his cellphone - because the detective "moves with the times," Inspector Di Donato said - is an imitation of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard saying, "At the sound of the beep, make it so."

Detective Parker also loved "Miami Vice,'' the inspector said, a show one friend said he loved for the fashion and not the police work. Describing Detective Parker's attempts to squeeze his huge frame into one of the white jackets popularized by the actor Don Johnson and bought by a co-worker, Inspector Di Donato likened life to a glove, saying that it was just Detective Parker's way of living it "to the fingertips."

He called the detective his "brother from another mother," and said that he found it hard to believe that he had died much in the same way as his favorite character, Mr. Spock, in his favorite Star Trek movie, "The Wrath of Khan." Recalling what he said was Detective Parker's favorite line from Mr. Spock, he said, "The needs of the many or the few outweigh the needs of the one."

"That's Bobby Parker," he said.

As the detectives lay dying on East 49th Street in East Flatbush, and Marlon Legere, the man who shot them, was fleeing, Detective Rafferty managed to wound him while Detective Parker called 911 to say that his picture was on their dashboard. Mr. Legere, 28, has been arraigned on charges of first-degree murder.

"Bobby and Patty went out like men," Inspector Di Donato said of the two slain detectives. "I'm proud of them."

Throughout the service, ushers kept busy dispensing tissues to mourners, several of whom rocked and swayed, or stood waving their arms aloft, shaking their heads in despair or disbelief. Outside, paramedics raced about, tending to several people who passed out.

After the service, as the Police Department's Emerald Society bagpipers made a solemn, wailing procession around the cultural center, some officers seemed as raw from the simultaneous loss of two from their ranks as from the absence of their friend.

"I've been on the job more than 20 years and I never thought I'd see it the first time," said Harold Thomas, a Queens narcotics detective, who said he knew the two undercover detectives killed in Staten Island in March 2003 as well as Detective Parker, who is to be buried today in Salisbury, N.C.

"A year and a half ago I'm in the emergency room,'' Detective Thomas said. "I'm praying over these guys and for it to happen again in 18 months unbelievable."