Midway through one of the most heavily attended funerals in the New York Police Department's history, Mayor Bill de Blasio walked past U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and other dignitaries to give his eulogy Saturday for Officer Rafael Ramos.
As the mayor started speaking, thousands of uniformed officers outside Christ Tabernacle Church silently turned their backs on him in a pointed display of protest as his image filled the large screens broadcasting the service.
Angered by the mayor's qualified support for nationwide demonstrations against the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, some New York police officers had similarly shunned de Blasio as he arrived a week ago at the hospital where Ramos and his police partner, Wenjian Liu, were declared dead.
Saturday's funeral for Ramos drew more than 25,000 officers from across the United States. Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio eulogized Ramos in speeches to hundreds of people inside the church in the New York City borough of Queens. Members of Ramos' family, including his widow and two sons, were in attendance.
Biden said the slayings of the two police officers "touched the soul of an entire nation." Cuomo said New York lost a hero in Ramos, and de Blasio said the officer would always be remembered.
Ramos and Liu were gunned down in their patrol car in the borough of Brooklyn on December 20 by a man who had indicated he was planning to avenge several recent incidents in the United States in which police killed black men who were carrying no weapons.
The man who shot the New York officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley — who hours earlier had shot and wounded an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, about 200 miles (nearly 320 kilometers) away — later killed himself. He had a history of mental problems and had been arrested several times.
Ramos was being laid to rest later Saturday. Funeral arrangements for Liu have not yet been announced.
The U.S. airline JetBlue offered free flights to at least 700 police officers from other parts of the country who wanted to attend the rites in New York for Ramos.
The deaths of black men by white policemen in suburban St. Louis and New York City after confrontations have sparked enormous controversy and a series of rolling anti-police protests across the United States. Violence erupted after grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to bring criminal charges against police involved in the civilian deaths.
Describing New York City as "incredibly diverse," Biden told mourners Saturday that the city "can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide."
Some information for this report came from Reuters.