The New York Times

December 6, 2005

Dress Blues and Salutes for Fallen Officer


Officers from the 70th Precinct were the first trickle in a sea of formal blue uniforms, their pants and shirts pressed with knife-sharp creases and their white gloves pulled on their hands.

They came yesterday, in the bracing cold, to pay respects at a Brooklyn church, to honor the memory of a fellow officer who was recognized four times in five years for distinguished police duty.

"He was a good cop," said Capt. Michael Ricciardi, the executive officer of the 70th Precinct, where Officer Dillon Stewart was a patrolman in the Conditions Unit. "Everybody looked up to him for guidance. He knew the job. He knew how to handle himself in the street."

Under gray skies illuminated by a fading sun, hundreds of officers and officials, including the mayor, the governor and the police commissioner, filed into the New Life Tabernacle Church, on Avenue D in East Flatbush, to say thank you, and goodbye, at Officer Stewart's wake.

His wife, Leslyn, and two daughters, Alexis, 6, and Samantha, 4 months, were there. His body rested in a flag-draped coffin, and photographs of him flashed across television monitors arrayed in the church in a silent slide show of his life. Here he was in uniform; with his daughters; on his wedding day.

To his colleagues, Officer Stewart embodied the qualities that earn the label "good cop." His instincts earned him a special assignment, they said, his eyes saw crimes not yet reported and his heart, ultimately, carried him in his last moments in Brooklyn on Nov. 28.

Officer Stewart, 35, was fatally shot through the heart while pursuing a driver who ran a red light, and he continued the chase for blocks after being shot. The man accused of shooting him, Allan Cameron, 27, has been charged with first-degree murder, as well as attempted murder in the Nov. 19 shooting of Wiener Philippe, 26, an off-duty officer who was also robbed of jewelry and a police identification card.

Last week, Gov. George E. Pataki responded to Officer Stewart's death with a plea for the reinstatement of the death penalty, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has renewed his call to get more illegal guns off the streets. Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, also came to the wake, and said, "Time and time again we lose police officers through gun violence on the streets."

He added, "The time has come for us to stop carrying our brothers and sisters into these churches."

But rank-and-file officers found themselves returning to the subject of Officer Stewart himself, who grew up in apartments surrounding the precinct from age 9, when he arrived in Brooklyn from the island of Jamaica, but did not join the force until age 30. Officer Stewart worked hard, studied for the sergeant's exam in January, and helped other officers on and off the job, they said.

"He was very eager, very enthusiastic about this job," said Lt. Emmanuel Gonzalez, the commander of the first platoon in the 70th Precinct, noting how Officer Stewart had volunteered for the Conditions Unit, a roving group that patrolled the most troubled parts of the precinct. "Dillon was out there, keeping these predators away from houses, letting people sleep safely. He was one of the top arrest earners in the platoon."

Lieutenant Gonzalez recalled the way Officer Stewart's instincts led to a burglary arrest. Officer Scott Chin recalled how Officer Stewart "came out of nowhere" one night about a year ago to help him arrest a man with a gun. "He was always there to back everybody up," Officer Chin said.

Three young officers leaving the church, their heads bowed, spoke of Officer Stewart as a role model.

"To me, when I saw him, he wasn't afraid to open up to us," said Officer Steve Richards, who has been an officer in the 70th Precinct for four months. "We did foot patrol a couple times, and he pulled up and asked us how we were doing, to make sure we were safe."

And many said his quick smile and upbeat attitude made them happy to be at work.

"He'd call me Kerly-Kerl," said Officer Kerlis Louis-Jean, who went to the Police Academy with Officer Stewart and later worked with him in the 70th Precinct. "He'd say, 'Kerly-Kerl, hey, how are you?' I liked that, you know. He had a lot of heart, and a lot of dedication."

Robert S. Kurtz, one of the doctors who tried to save Officer Stewart's life, also came to pay his respects. Leaving the church, he paused in the street and said, "I would say he had a very strong heart, metaphorically and physically."

Officer Stewart's funeral will be held at the same church this morning. In a telephone interview yesterday, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly called Officer Stewart a "great cop," whose street-smart tenacity and dedication were on display in a larger police force that, though saddened by his death, was fulfilling its mission in patrolling the city.

"I would say we have 36,000 other men and women who stand ready to put their life on the line," Mr. Kelly said, his voice solemn. "And do so unquestionably."