Los Angeles police made common cause with their brethren in New York on Wednesday, honoring two New York City officers slain this week as well as three of their own who recently died in the line of duty.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in law enforcement across the country,” said L.A. Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith. He praised officers who “gave their lives defending this country … from people who are out there to do evil.”
NYPD officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, became the targets of an apparently random act of violence by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had a long history of personal failure, petty crimes and mental illness. Brinsley took his own life after killing the officers.
Liu had been married three months; Ramos was the father of two.
The three L.A. officers died in unrelated incidents.
Nicholas C. Lee, 40, died in March when a trash truck slammed into his patrol car. In April, Chris Cortijo, 51, was killed when his motorcycle was rear-ended by a woman who investigators suspect was high on cocaine. Roberto Sanchez, 32, died in May, when an SUV struck his patrol car.
“These are scary times,” said veteran LAPD Det. Sammy Hancock. “It just brings the realization of how difficult our job can be. At any second we can take a life or lose our life in the line of duty.”
At the Los Angeles ceremony, the Rev. Bill Minson described the anxiety that loved ones feel for those who serve in the police, fire department or military, citing “the children who are concerned at home about a mom and dad making it home after their shift.”
“As a native New Yorker, it's a very painful time right now,” Minson said in an interview, referring to the slain officers and to protests related to the death of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold by police. A grand jury this month declined to indict an officer involved in the confrontation.
“It's difficult for people and the good men and women of law enforcement to be called racist and construed as something other than being in the business of serving and helping people,” said Minson, who is black. All the same, “we are in a time of reform, ready or not.”
The killings have not stopped protests in New York City related to Garner and the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Demonstrators also have marched in hundreds of actions in Los Angeles and cities across the country.
The majority of demonstrations have been peaceful, including some resulting in arrests, such as those that closed L.A. freeways.
Incidents of local concern include the August police shooting of Ezell Ford Jr., a mentally ill man accused of attacking officers.
Officer Eric Desmore said he's grateful for recent expressions of support.
“The past couple of weeks, I've had several citizens come up and actually thank me for the job that I'm doing, saying they're grateful we're around,” he said.
Also speaking in Los Angeles was retired Rep. Diane Watson, whose father was among the city's first black officers. She recalled that her father never fully recovered emotionally after shooting and killing a suspect while on patrol.
“I am a huge supporter of those who wear the badge and I will always support them,” Watson said. “However, I don't support irresponsible behavior.”