The first New York City police officer killed in the line of duty this year was honored by the city during a memorial service Friday in East Islip, Long Island.
Thousands of police officers filled East Main Street like a river of dark blue that stopped traffic for blocks around the funeral home. Their gold badges glinted in the morning sunlight like tiny flashbulbs, as they stood in formation and listened silently to remembrances of Officer Alain Schaberger.
Schaberger, 42, was killed last weekend when responding to a domestic violence call in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. He was allegedly pushed off a 9-foot railing by the man he was trying to arrest, and broke his neck.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called Schaberger a "cop's cop," who spent the first months of his 10-year police career helping secure Ground Zero right after September 11, and comforting grieving family members who visited the site.
"What we do for ourselves dies with us," Kelly said, "but what we do for others is immortal."
The murder of a police officer, he added, "is not a solitary event." Rather, "it is an assault on society."
Colleagues say Schaberger was a private, serious man — an officer you could always rely on.
"He was more of a quiet officer," said Deputy Inspector Mark DiPaolo, the commanding officer of the 84th Precinct, where Schaberger worked. "He wasn't like a practical joker. He was just more of a professional. He was a lot of business. The guys loved him, but he was just a real good police officer."
Schaberger was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother and American father. He grew up in East Islip and served in the Navy for five years before becoming a police officer.
Just hours after the service ended, the District Attorney for Kings County announced that the man who allegedly killed Schaberger — George Villanueva — had been indicted by a grand jury for aggravated murder, among other charges.
Another funeral was also held Friday to remember Nassau County Officer Geoffrey Breitkopf, who died in a friendly fire incident in Massapequa Park the same weekend.