September 16, 2004

Thousands Salute a Fallen Officer

Thousands of city police officers salute the casket of Detective Patrick Rafferty before his funeral mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Main Street in East Islip, Long Island yesterday. Rafferty and Detective Robert Parker were gunned down in Brooklyn.
Konrad Fiedler

Above: Thousands of city police officers salute the casket of Detective Patrick Rafferty before his funeral mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Main Street in East Islip, Long Island yesterday. Rafferty and Detective Robert Parker were gunned down in Brooklyn.

Staff Reporter of the Sun

Thousands of police officers from the tri-state area packed a mile long stretch of Main Street in East Islip, L.I., to bid a final farewell to Detective Patrick Rafferty, who was gunned down last week in Brooklyn and buried in his hometown yesterday.

In honor of Rafferty's 15 years of service to the department and his ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, seven helicopters flew in formation over St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church as his flag-draped coffin was removed from the church.

"[Rafferty] was a fearless and relentless pursuer of dangerous criminals," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly during the eulogy. "He made New York a safer and a better place. From the department that you loved and served so well, our deepest condolences."

Friends, family and colleagues remembered Rafferty as a dedicated cop who sought out dangerous suspects, an urban cowboy who listened to country music and wore cowboy boots, an avid hunter, and a loving family man.

"The only things that won't miss Pat are the ducks on Long Island, the rabbits in Maine, and the perps in Brooklyn," said Detective Joseph Calabrese, Rafferty's first partner.

Rafferty's 9-year-old son Kevin won loud applause from the pews when he described his father as a fearless man who loved the outdoors and told his family "not to worry" when a bear prowled their campsite.

"He went and scared the bear away by throwing rocks at it," Kevin said. "When I was scared, my Dad would stand next to me and tell me it's all right."

Thousands of officers who couldn't fit into the church filled the street during services and shared memories of the boisterous detective. Rafferty, who is survived by a widow and three children, was described by Detective Carl McLaughlin as "a giant among men" and "a modern-day McCloud" who wore cowboy boots and line-danced.

"If a man can be judged by the number of his friends, look around," Detective McLaughlin said, sweeping his hand across the crowd. Mr. McLaughlin, who worked with Rafferty at the 67th precinct in East Flatbush, said, "In a chaotic precinct, [Rafferty] was the voice of reason."

Rafferty and his partner, Detective Robert Parker, were shot dead at East Flatbush Friday. Marlon Legere, 28, was arraigned on charges of murdering the detectives. Though mortally wounded, Rafferty shot Legere, and Parker managed to call 911 and identify the suspect.

"[Rafferty] had enough presence of mind to return fire, which helped us catch the guy, because the guy was injured," Detective McLaughlin said. "He was a hero to the end."

Rafferty and Parker were posthumously promoted to detective first grade, which will increase the pension to their survivors.

As part of the eulogy, Mayor Bloomberg credited Rafferty, and his record of approximately 400 arrests, with contributing to the city's decline in crime.

"He made the neighborhood safer and they loved him for it," Mr. Bloomberg said. "He was truly one of the finest." Addressing Rafferty's children, Mr. Bloomberg added, "Your father was truly a hero."

Mr. Bloomberg said Rafferty was enthusiastic in pursuing suspects and tackling difficult situations, and had volunteered to accompany Parker in responding to the domestic call that lead to their deaths.

"Make no mistake, justice will be served," Mr. Bloomberg said.

Following the same route used for East Islip's annual St. Patrick's Day parade, a procession of motorcycle officers, followed by the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe and Drums, led a march down Montauk Highway from the funeral home where the Irish-Catholic Rafferty's wake was held to the church where his life was celebrated in a funeral Mass.

After the service, two trumpeters played taps, followed by a flyover of seven police helicopters.

A lone trumpeter played "America the Beautiful" as Rafferty's casket was placed in a hearse for the trip to nearby St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Detective Michael Palladino, president of the Detective's Endowment Association, said the police turnout was the biggest he had seen in 25 years.

"I'm deeply indebted to all the police departments, politicians and police supporters who showed up at the wake and the funeral," Mr. Palladino said. Referring to Parker's upcoming funeral, Mr. Palladino said, "Unfortunately, we have to do this all over again on Friday."

The two detectives were the first to be killed in the line of duty since March 2003, when two undercover detectives from the police department's organized crime control bureau were shot on Staten Island during a sting operation against gun dealers.

Another officer died on duty of a heart attack in January while running to the scene of an arrest.

In addition to his son, Rafferty is survived by his wife, Eileen, and two daughters, Karen 12, and Emma, 5.

Parker's wake is set for this afternoon and evening at Grace Funeral Chapels, 607 N. Conduit Blvd., Brooklyn. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Christian Cultural Center,120-20 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.