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|03-18-2007, 10:31 PM||#1|
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NYPD AUX officers die in line of duty
2 Forces Forge a Solid Blue Line for a Slain Officer
(Hero 6th Precinct A.P.O. Nicholas Pekearo)
By MANNY FERNANDEZ - Sunday, March 18th, 2007 'The New York Times'
There are many differences between the New York Police Department?s regular officers and its auxiliary force. Full-fledged officers are paid; auxiliary officers are not. Full-fledged officers carry guns and wear metal shields on their uniforms; auxiliary officers carry nightsticks and wear old-fashioned stars.
Yesterday, on West 14th Street, the two forces stood as one, row after row in crisp blue uniforms and white gloves, as the body of a slain auxiliary officer was carried to a gray hearse on the shoulders of six nonauxiliary colleagues.
Auxiliary Officer Nicholas T. Pekearo, though not a full-fledged member of the department in life, was given all the formal rites of one in death. His wooden coffin was draped in the green-and-white police flag. His mother, Iola Latman, was handed that flag after police buglers blew a mournful ?America the Beautiful.? Police helicopters flew low in formation above the ceremony.
Officer Pekearo, 28, was killed Wednesday night after confronting a gunman who, moments earlier, had fatally shot a pizzeria worker at West Houston and MacDougal Streets in Greenwich Village. The gunman, David R. Garvin, fled, and Officer Pekearo and his partner, Auxiliary Officer Yevgeniy Marshalik, pursued him.
As they followed him onto Sullivan Street, Mr. Garvin turned toward the officers and shot both before armed police officers killed him. Officer Pekearo, who was shot first, was the seventh auxiliary officer killed in the line of duty. Officer Marshalik, whose funeral is scheduled for today in Brooklyn, was the eighth.
For the city?s 4,500 auxiliary officers ? the uniformed, unarmed and volunteer force that patrols everything from parades to neighborhoods ? Officer Pekearo?s farewell yesterday morning illustrated not only the dangers of the job but also the heroism of it, which before Wednesday often went unheralded.
Auxiliary officers and regular ones spoke yesterday about the risks they all take in keeping the streets safe, and the risks that Officer Pekearo and Officer Marshalik took in particular Wednesday night.
In his eulogy at Redden?s Funeral Home, Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner, praised the two men for getting Mr. Garvin to drop a black bag that contained a handgun and 90 rounds of ammunition. ?The fact that more lives were not lost is due in no small measure to these courageous young men,? Commissioner Kelly said.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also paid tribute to Officer Pekearo and Officer Marshalik for willfully putting themselves in harm?s way to protect others. ?Unarmed, they confronted and pursued a man carrying two semiautomatic weapons,? the mayor said. ?And although they both lost their lives, they helped stop what could have been far greater bloodshed.?
Some officers who attended the funeral said the auxiliary force needed greater protection on the streets. Auxiliary officers are not supplied with bulletproof vests, though some, like Officer Pekearo, buy vests with their own money. Officer Pekearo?s vest caught one bullet, but he also was hit at close range in the back, shoulder and side.
?The city needs to provide us with protection, at the very least, bulletproof vests,? said Auxiliary Officer Marc Mermelstein, 27, who has been with the force for two years.
?We risk our lives to keep the city safe,? he said. ?But we take these risks unprotected.?
Officer Mermelstein was one of thousands of full-fledged and auxiliary officers who filled West 14th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, during the funeral. The street is usually filled with artistic locals, the kind of place where you can get cheese from Switzerland at Balducci?s for $21.99 a pound. But yesterday, the block turned to a sea of blue in honor of Officer Pekearo, who had been with the force since 2003.
Officer Pekearo knew these streets well. He was a Villager, as the mayor called him, born at St. Vincent?s Manhattan Hospital on West 12th Street, where he also died. He was an aspiring novelist and bookseller, known at the Sixth Precinct not so much as a crime fighter but as a kind of local historian with a badge.
?I have heard that walking the beat with Nick was like taking a history lesson,? Commissioner Kelly told the mourners. ?He knew where every famous writer lived.?
Friends described him as a lover of New York. Nina Pisano-Martinez, 27, remembered rushing with Officer Pekearo to a subway station years ago because he wanted to ride the Redbird cars before they went out of service.
The mayor said that Officer Pekearo?s companion, Christina Honeycutt, 34, had described him as being ?cut from an old weave,? prizing anything that had a little age to it. He listened to Frank Sinatra and collected vintage comic books.
?He valued the city,? Ms. Pisano-Martinez said after the ceremony. ?He valued what made it strong. He wanted to hold on to the heritage that it had. If a store closed that had been around for years, he felt that loss.?
Officer Pekearo?s commander at the Sixth Precinct, Deputy Inspector Theresa J. Shortell, said he did things by the book. ?He would take his uniform out,? she said. ?He would make sure it was all pressed. He would shower and he would shave. He was as crisp as they come.?
Commissioner Kelly said that Officer Pekearo also was generous with his time, with recommendations for a good read and, it turns out, with his hair. A few years ago, an auxiliary officer at the Sixth Precinct found out that he had lymphoma, a type of cancer. Chemotherapy treatments forced him to shave his head. Officer Pekearo put his friend at ease, not with words but with deeds: He shaved his head, too.
WIN OR LOSE.........I still bleed black and gold.
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