A beacon of light, shining the way for his family, friends, colleagues, and community — that was how fallen Police Officer Jason Rivera was remembered on Jan. 28.
Exactly one week after Police Officer Rivera was murdered while responding to a domestic dispute, he was laid to rest with full honors in an emotional St. Patrick’s Cathedral funeral.
Merely 22 years of age, Rivera was shot on Jan. 21 alongside his partner, 27-year-old Wilbert Mora, who succumbed to his injuries Tuesday. In honor of Rivera’s ultimate sacrifice while striving to serve the Northeastern Harlem community, the entire city joined in mourning one of New York’s finest.
Just after 7 am, as family members began to arrive at the house of worship, the heavens opened up and a flurry of snow began to drift from the sky. The blanket gently coated thousands of police officers who arrived Friday morning to salute a slain brother.
Inside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral the likes of Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, former Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, members of the Police Benevolent Association, and many more gathered to pay their respects to a man who gave his life protecting the city.
Remembering a hero
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell described Rivera’s maturity and brightness, which both surprised and awed all of those who had the pleasure of his company. In honor of his ultimate sacrifice, Sewell posthumously promoted Rivera to detective, first grade.
“This has always been a city of lights, and Police Officer Jason Rivera was one of its brightest,” said Sewell, “By all accounts Jason was wise beyond his years. His level of maturity at such a young age was noted repeatedly by his colleagues who remember how much they learned by simply being around him working side by side. He cherished the company of his colleagues, his brothers and sisters in blue.”
Rivera was the son of an immigrant family, and he saw the need within his neighborhood for safety and protection.
“He knew that decisions and changes are made by those who show up, so he suited up. With an unrelenting need to interact to help others, Jason did everything he had to do to join the New York City Police Department. It was a star to catch, a goal to score,” Sewell said.
The top cop described Rivera’s wife Dominique Luzuriaga as the inextinguishable light of his life—and at the tender age of 22 years old he had both found his dream job and soulmate, something many are never able to ascertain in their lifetime.
Mayor Adams, a former police officer himself, also spoke on the pain and sorrow felt by the city.
“Every day when I see New Yorkers, they say, ‘Thank the men and women of the New York City Police Department,’ and I want to thank you. I want to thank you for what you do every day. You stand in the gap of safety. These two fine men watered the tree of safety and allows us to sit under its shade from the hot sun of violence. You play a vital role in the prosperity of this city,” Adams said.
Rivera’s widow was the final voice to remember her husband. During an emotional and tearful speech, Luzuriaga revealed the heart-wrenching last day they shared together. Elementary-school sweethearts, the newlyweds had an argument that Friday morning due to Rivera using his work phone—a price to be paid when duty calls—unfortunately, they never got to reconcile.
“I got no response. Then I got a call asking if I’m Jason’s wife, and then I had to rush to the hospital. Walking up those steps, seeing everybody staring at me was the scariest moment I’ve experienced. Nobody was telling me anything. Dozens of people were surrounding me and yet I felt alone. I couldn’t believe you left me. Seeing you in a hospital bed wrapped up in sheets not hearing me when I was talking to you broke me. I asked ‘Why’ I said to you, ‘Wake up, baby. I’m here.’ The little bit of hope I had that you would come back just to say goodbye, or I love you one more time had left. I was lost,” said Luzuriaga, recounting that horrific night.
While Luzuriaga said she gained thousands of brothers and sisters in blue, without Rivera, she is alone. She thanked all of those who paid tribute to her lost love and added that having the whole nation on gridlock was exactly what he would have wanted. Rivera, or as Luzuriaga called him, Big PO Rivera, would live on through his wife.
“I want you to live through me. The system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore. Not even the members of the service. I know you were tired of these laws, especially the ones from the new DA. I hope he’s watching you speak through me right now. I’m sure all of our blue family is tired too. But I promise, we promise that your death won’t be in vain. I love you to the end of time. We’ll take the watch from here,” Luzuriaga said.
Following the service, Rivera was quietly shouldered by his fellow officers down the Cathedral steps and into an awaiting hearse as thousands of men and women of the NYPD made one final salute amidst the falling snow.
The flag draping the new detective’s coffin was ceremoniously folded before being presented to Rivera’s widow with a salute. The grief was too much. Luzuriaga broke down in tears, silently sobbing as she clutched the flag that moments prior shrouded her husband’s body.
The sullen stillness was broken with a painful cry that pierced the frigid, snow-filled air. Rivera’s mother furiously wept at the sight of her son being driven out of sight.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.