‘We have your back!’ Harlem mourns fallen NYPD officers, rallies behind the Finest in tearful vigil

Officers of the 32nd Precinct and the Harlem community shed collective tears in honor of their two fallen police officers on Jan. 26.

Emotions could be felt spilling into the frigid air on Wednesday evening as officers — uniformed and plain-clothed — broke down at the memory of their murdered NYPD family in front of the neighborhood precinct. Hearts were laid bare with teardrops lit by candlelight and the cracking, choked up voices that remembered the lives of Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora who both died in Friday’s fatal domestic dispute shooting.

Hundreds of mourners made up of residents, NYPD officers, FDNY firefighters, religious leaders, and elected officials lined the roadway and sidewalks in honor of the young men who lost their lives. But more importantly than who they were, those grieving recognized what they were: New Yorkers.

Tears flooded the vigil. Photo by Dean Moses
Candles lit NYPD shields. Photo by Dean Moses
Messages of support were plastered to the shrines. Photo by Dean Moses

“Wow, Harlem is out here,” Inspector Amir Yakatally said, looking around.

“We have your back!” Voices cried out from the crowd.

“We need that support to continue. Please stop by, call, text. Find a 32 Officer and just stand next to them,” Yakatally said.

Two candle laden shrines were created for each officer outside of the precinct. Flowers and loving messages surrounded portraits of the lost men in blue. In an attempt to heal, fellow officers made speeches recalling their friends, the laughter, inside jokes, and just pure the happiness they both exuded, but the grief proved too much, cutting the memoriam short.

Officer Sterling Medina. Photo by Dean Moses
The grief became overwhelming. Photo by Dean Moses
Officers gripped candles. Photo by Dean Moses

“Your smile lit up a room. Your smile and laugh changed everyone’s mood. I am always going to remember you,” Officer Sterling Medina said of Mora before staggering away from the podium in tears.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association also spoke to the large gathering. With raised arms, the union boss implored that love and support be sent in honor of the lost, but also their fellow officer who was forced to pull his weapon’s trigger that night.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association. Photo by Dean Moses
A woman adds a candle to a sea of flame. Photo by Dean Moses

“But we also have to remember another person that day, another police officer that was in that apartment. A young police officer only weeks out of the Academy, who was in a situation that no one would ever want to be. But he didn’t turn and run. When those shots were fired, when he saw his fellow police officers go to the ground, he jumped into action. He checked on them. He even tried to protect the people in that apartment. When that person came out of that apartment and tried to kill the rest of the apartment, he took him out. He did his job,” Lynch said.

Regardless of race, ethnicity, or blue lines, a community didn’t just mourn the loss of police officers, they agonized over the deaths of friends and community members.

Fellow officers supported one another during the vigil. Photo by Dean Moses
The flag of the Dominican Republic was presented in honor of the fallen officers. Photo by Dean Moses
Hundreds gathered. Photo by Dean Moses
FDNY also showed their support. Photo by Dean Moses
Shrines were created for the officers. Photo by Dean Moses