September 19, 2017

Sgt.’s Widow Thankful for ‘Beautiful Things That Come Out of Tragedies’

Union Head: ‘Paid Price None of Us Chooses’


AWARD FOR HEROISM: Lieut. Emmanuel Kwo receives his Sergeant of the Year Award from Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. Lieutenant Kwo was wounded in the gun battle that took the life of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo last November. The Lieutenant said he would always be grateful to Sergeant Tuozzolo for warning him and other officers that the suspect was armed. ‘If he didn’t yell gun! maybe there would have been two funerals,’ he said.
The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang

Lisa Tuozzolo was in her home in Huntington, L.I., getting her older son ready for his first day of kindergarten when someone came to the door.

“It was quite the surprise to open up my front door and find 35 members of my husband’s police department,” she said. She had had no idea they were coming. “It was so heartwarming and heartfelt.”

Forever Linked

One of the officers who escorted 5-year-old Austin Tuozzolo and his mother to the bus stop that day was Lieut. Emmanuel Kwo. Then a Sergeant, he was with Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo and a handful of other officers last Nov. 4 when they approached a man in The Bronx who had held his estranged wife hostage.

The man opened fire on the officers, killing Sergeant Tuozzolo and wounding Mr. Kwo in the left leg before being cut down by Mr. Tuozzolo’s driver and a Police Academy recruit accompanying them for training.

Lieutenant Kwo remains grateful that Sergeant Tuozzolo just before he was shot warned other officers that the gunman was armed: “If he didn’t yell ‘gun!’ maybe there would have been two funerals. I hope that I make him proud. For the rest of my life, everything that I do is because of him.”

Lieutenant Kwo took a video of the officers escorting Austin ( “It’s where I need to be, watching them grow up, being there for her,” he said of Ms. Tuozzolo, Austin and brother Jo­seph, who is a year younger.

“We’ve been very close,” he said. “I’ve been by her side as much as she’ll let me. I’ve become very close with the boys. We’re stuck with each other.”

In separate interviews with THE CHIEF-LEADER at the Sergeants Benevolent Association’s Sergeants of the Year luncheon Sept. 14, he and Ms. Tuozzolo described how the Police Department keeps its promise to always be there for survivors of officers killed on the job.

As SBA President Edward D. Mullins told Ms. Tuozzolo at her husband’s funeral Nov. 10, “You and your boys will never be alone, or want for anything. You are now a part of a very special and different family. The price of admission is more than any of us chooses to pay.”

“They’re my family,” Ms. Tuozzolo said at the luncheon. “They take care of us. I don’t even have to ask. It’s an unbelievable feeling—an entire police department has got my back.”

Came as His Guest

Lieutenant Kwo, who was one of the award recipients, brought Ms. Tuozzolo as a guest along with his wife, who is expecting their first child.

She said the family had socialized with officers from her husband’s precinct, the 43rd, for years. “Before anything happened, my children called them ‘Uncle’ and ‘Aunt’…We were a family ­before this tragedy and it just made us closer and stronger.”

She continued, “My husband’s precinct members are so playful with my boys. They usually come in large numbers” which can be intimidating for a young child until he gets comfortable with them. “The boys are chasing the officers. The officers are running around the yard chasing my boys. It’s very special watching the bond develop between the officers and the boys. They’re there because they want to be, not out of a sense of obligation.”

She said the officers help her with her two priorities: caring for her children and supporting her husband’s legacy.

A Bittersweet Bond

She has also developed friendships with other police widows, including Maritza Ramos, whose husband, Rafael Ramos, was killed along with his partner, Wenjian Liu, in December 2014 by a mentally-ill ex-convict who then killed himself in a nearby subway station.

Ms. Tuozzolo participated in the distribution of 500 backpacks for the start of school to students in Brooklyn sponsored by the Detective Rafael Ramos Foundation, of which Ms. Ramos is a board member.

Those relationships and the charitable activities are “beautiful things that have come out of our tragedies,” she said.

Lieutenant Kwo was asked what was going through his mind during the chase of and confrontation with the gunman.

‘Nothing Prepares You’

“It’s the job,” he said. “You don’t think how it’s going to turn out…You never think that this is the one where everything changes…Nothing prepares you for the way this turns out. It’s surreal to remember it 10 months later. It doesn’t feel like an actual event.”

Sergeant Tuozzolo was 41 and just a few months from retirement when he was killed. Lieutenant Kwo, 31, was promoted in February after 2½ years as a Sergeant. He has been with the NYPD for 10 years and now works for the Deputy Commissioner for Administration, his first office job with the department.

‘An Outpouring of Love’

Lieutenant Kwo was born in Cameroon and lived in Paris and London, where his parents completed their higher education, before his family came to the United States when he was 12. His speech does not betray his history of travel. “I never had an accent,” he said. “I worked hard not to have one.”

They moved to Texas, and he attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He said he knew he was going to join a police department somewhere and “I always wanted to be in New York City.”

Ms. Tuozzolo said, “I’m really appreciative of those that have extended themselves—members of the department, law-enforcement officers from across the country. The outpouring of love has been so heart­warm­ing.”

She concluded, “I don’t think law-enforcement officers are acknowledged for the sacrifices they make until something terrible happens.”