Upd.: Nov. 11, 2016, 1:24 AM
BY THOMAS TRACY, EDGAR SANDOVAL, STEPHEN REX BROWN
|Officers comfort the wife of slain Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo outside St. Rosa of Lima Church in Massapequa, Long Island, on Thursday as his casket passes by. (COREY SIPKIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
The final act for a hero sergeant was to shout “Gun!” before taking a bullet intended for a fellow police officer.
An estimated 12,000 people mourned Paul Tuozzolo on Thursday, hailing him as a generous man who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Tuozzolo, 41, a father of two young boys, was shot in the Bronx last week as cops approached an ex-con cowering in a crashed Jeep Cherokee. The gunman shot and killed Tuozzolo, but not before Tuozzolo could warn Sgt. Emmanuel Kwo.
“Sgt. Paul saved my life, Ed,” Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, recalled Kwo telling him. “He saved my life. He saw something we didn’t see. He yelled at us, ‘Gun! Gun! Gun!’”
|Paul Tuozzolo's wife, Lisa Tuozzolo, with their two boys Austin and Joseph, at the Thursday funeral for the slain NYPD sergeant. (DEBBIE EGAN-CHIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Kwo, 30, was grazed in the leg before Elwin Martinez, a Police Academy recruit, killed the shooter. Kwo and Martinez attended the funeral Mass in Massapequa, L.I., on Thursday.
Mayor de Blasio told Tuozzolo’s two sons — Austin, 4, and Joseph, 3 — that they have their father’s strength. One of them clutched a toy car.
“His final act on this Earth, he served in exemplary fashion,” de Blasio said at St. Rose of Lima Church, bowing his head in front of Tuozzolo’s casket before making his remarks. “He could have sent his fellow officers, but he took the lead and he gave his life protecting his fellow officers and all of us.”
Tuozzolo, of Huntington, L.I., was not just an exemplary cop under the most extreme circumstances. Known as “Sgt. T,” Tuozzolo once served as a school safety sergeant and drove a beat-up green car he called the Green Hornet.
“He would take on any chore given to him,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said, noting the sergeant’s familiar response to requests was, “I got it, I’m good.”
With 19 years on the job and only months from being eligible for retirement, Tuozzolo chose the day-tour patrol, putting him back on the streets.
“For the sake of his family in blue and for the sake of strangers, Paul kept moving toward the danger and the unknown — as you all do, every day. Always the protector, Paul instinctively put others before himself,” O’Neill said. “After all, if not Paul, who would do this work?”
Outside the church, six pallbearers carried Tuozzolo’s burgundy casket as his wife, Lisa, sobbed and comforted their sons. Nine helicopters flew in formation overhead. More than 10,000 cops lined the streets. All of Massapequa seemed to be in mourning.
|Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O'Neill and former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton attend the funeral of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo. (COREY SIPKIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Schools were closed to clear roads. Residents had tied blue ribbons on poles and benches all along the route on Merrick Road as a sea of blue streamed toward the church. Msgr. Robert Romano said President-elect Donald Trump sent his condolences to Tuozzolo’s widow and sons. Trump called his widow personally, police sources said.
Among the attendees were Timothy Cardinal Dolan, former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) and the parents of NYPD cops Wenjian Liu and Brian Moore, who were both killed in the line of duty.
Tuozzolo’s colleagues packed the church balcony. One buried his face in his hands, covering tears.
“He died knowing that every day he put on that uniform, that was an opportunity to show love to other people. He also showed love by sacrificing his life,” Romano said.
Detective Steve McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty in 1986, called the show of support “powerful.” “I hope the (city) hurts the way we are hurting today,” he said. “I’m not so much worried about Massapequa. It’s the places where we work. I want them to know what we suffered here.”
O’Neill posthumously promoted Tuozzolo to sergeant special assignment, giving his family additional financial benefits.
“You have departments from across the country here to stand shoulder to shoulder with us because everyone realizes that any call could be your last call,” Patrick Lynch, president of the city Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said.
“It could be any one of us. That’s why we’ve come together. But the communities and the neighborhoods supporting us makes it extra special.”
Tuozzolo was killed confronting Manuel Rosales, 35, who had taken his estranged wife and 3-year-old son hostage. Cops trapped the gunman, an ex-con with a long rap sheet, in his Cherokee on a dead-end Van Nest street. Rosales tried to escape before ramming his Jeep into a police car. He stayed inside until Tuozzolo and two other cops approached — and then opened fire from only 2 feet away.
Martinez, 25, was on his third day of field training when he killed Rosales in the shootout. “I’m not going to call him a recruit,” O’Neill said, praising Martinez as “heroic.”
Rosales served three stints behind bars on felony convictions and had a rap sheet with 17 prior arrests. “There’s one less violent person on the streets today because Sgt. Tuozzolo stepped up to fight crime . . . to fight danger,” de Blasio said.
WITH JOHN ANNESE