November 10, 2016 | 3:05pm
By Lorena Mongelli, Shawn Cohen and Natalie Musumeci
|Thousands of NYPD officers and cops from around the country gather to remember NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo. Photo: Dennis A. Clark|
Slain NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo was remembered Thursday afternoon as a fierce “American hero,” “family man” and “protector” at a funeral that drew thousands of fellow officers from across the country to a Long Island church.
“Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo was everything we could wish for in a police officer: conscientious, hardworking, courageous, driven to protect,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the 41-year-old veteran cop at the packed Saint Rose of Lima Church in Massapequa.
“Paul always exemplified the definition of protector, he instinctively put others before himself,” said O’Neill, who remembered Tuozzolo for his calm demeanor and “dry sense of humor.”
The city’s top cop posthumously promoted Tuozzolo, who leaves behind a wife and two young boys, to sergeant-special assignment — an announcement greeted by a standing ovation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio told mourners, “In his final act on this Earth, he served in exemplary fashion doing his all, giving his all for all of us.”
“There’s one fewer dangerous person on the street today because Sgt. Tuozzolo took the lead. That is the measure of the man. He gave his life protecting his fellow officers, protecting all of us,” de Blasio said.
Tuozzolo’s casket, draped in the Police Department’s green, white and blue flag, was carried into the church by police pallbearers as a sea of blue officers in silent salute crowded the streets surrounding the Roman Catholic church on Bayview Avenue.
Hundreds of police motorcycles led the funeral procession down Merrick Road as approximately 25,000 officers from departments including Los Angeles, Colorado, Boston and Virginia lined the streets for about a mile for the service that shut down Massapequa-area schools.
|Photo: Dennis A. Clark|
Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, sobbed, clutching the hands of her two young sons, Austin and Joseph, as her husband’s casket was led into the church with bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.”
De Blasio, his wife, Chirlane McCray, O’Neill and former top cop Bill Bratton stood front and center outside the church during the somber procession.
“Today we come together to honor an American hero,” NYPD Deputy Chief Chaplain Msgr. Robert Romano told the church full of mourners wearing blue ribbons.
“It doesn’t get easier and don’t let anyone ever tell you that, but the important thing is to know that you are supported by one another, by a family who loves you, by a family who cares for you, but more important, this family,” said Romano to Tuozzolo’s family members, referring to the law community.
Romano noted that cop deaths nationwide occur all too often.
“We want you to know today that the family, the police officers, the neighbors, the strangers and even the president-elect of the United States are here to support you,” Romano said.
Tuozzolo, of Huntington, Long Island, was murdered by a career criminal in the Bronx last Friday during a chaotic shootout.
He was one of the officers responding to a report of an armed home invasion by 35-year-old ex-con Manuel Rosales at the residence of his estranged wife, whom Rosales had held hostage before the fatal attack.
When Tuozzolo, Sgt. Emmanuel Kwo, 30, and a recruit with just three days of field training under his belt arrived on scene in the Van Nest section of the borough, Rosales blasted Tuozzolo in the head and chest before officers and the rookie could return fire.
Kwo, a nine-year veteran who took multiple bullets in his right leg during the shootout, made it to the funeral service despite his injuries.
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, recalled a conversation he had with Kwo following the fatal incident.
“Paul saved my life, Ed … I was approaching that car too and I didn’t see what Paul saw. Paul’s final words were a warning to me and my partner. He yelled, ‘Gun, gun, gun!’” Mullins recalled Kwo telling him.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as well as the family of murdered NYPD cop Wenjian Liu, who was killed alongside Officer Rafael Ramos in December 2014, were also among the mourners.
Tuozzolo, a beloved 43rd Precinct cop, wished to finish his long career where the action was, on the streets. He had worked as a domestic violence officer before asking to be put back on patrol.
“He wanted to end his career the way he started it: working the radio and keeping the public safe,” said O’Neill. “As a cop, that was his job. Indeed, that was his calling. Six days ago, Paul was doing just that.”
Boston cop Matt Carey, who drove to Long Island with about 20 cops and detectives from his department, said, “Even though I didn’t know Sgt. Tuozzolo, he was my brother and I came here to pay respect to him, his family and his brothers in blue.”
The Boston cops served hot food to nearly 4,000 officers and residents in the area Thursday morning before the funeral.
Tuozzolo’s death marks the eighth time this year that a New York City police officer has been shot in the line of duty — but the first fatal cop shooting in more than a year.
Additional reporting by Larry Celona