They stood, in tears, or crouched in silence, or stared solemnly on a Brooklyn street corner before a pile of bouquets, Christmas wreaths, teddy bears and candles snuffed out by the December wind. One after another — police officers, detectives, sergeants and lieutenants — arrived here to pay respects to two of their own who were ambushed and killed last week at this spot, now a shrine to the fallen men.
On Thursday afternoon, the uniformed officers were joined by New Yorkers, visitors from out of town and dozens of members of the clergy who made the intersection of Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood part of their holiday observance. Left behind at home were family suppers and presents under trees. Christmas Day, some of those gathered said, was better spent here, honoring the two men.
“I said, ‘I’m going down to the memorial,’” Cuerisha Browne, 21, told her mother, who was finishing cooking their Christmas dinner at home in East New York, Brooklyn. Her mother protested, in part because of the holiday, and in part, Ms. Browne said, because the two feel differently about police treatment of black people. She left anyway. “The thing is,” said Ms. Browne, who is black, “they were human beings.”
Around noon, a bus carrying dozens of members of several organizations of Hispanic clergy pulled up on Myrtle Avenue. Out poured men and women, their pulpits and flocks left behind for the moment. “Peace on earth and good will towards men,” the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said. “We thought it was appropriate to be here.”
At times, members of the group joined hands with police officers, quietly praying with them. “It’s not going to bring them back,” said Detective Keith Knight, tears pouring down his chin and past the silver badge hanging from his neck as he stepped from one such prayer circle. “But it felt good.”
Still wearing colorful face paint from a Christmas carnival they had just visited, eight members of a far-flung extended family from North Carolina and Washington stood beside a tent erected above the candles. They said the memorial was an essential stop, just after church.
In the midst of stuffed animals and flowers were two dwarf Christmas trees. They seemed to almost evoke the officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were killed as they sat in their squad car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who later shot himself on a nearby subway platform.
Officer Charlene Torres brought her son and nephew. She had come, she said, to pray for the men’s families. “I come here and I pray that they are well and that as time goes on, their hearts heal. They deserve that,” Officer Torres said. Her voice began to break. “They deserve much more. They deserve them to be with them for Christmas.”
The shooting has been deeply felt among the ranks of police. “You always have a risk, but it’s different now,” said Lt. James McGarry, who had come from Manhattan to the shrine. “You feel uneasy now. You’re looking over your shoulder a little more.”
Around 1 p.m., a cluster of uniformed officers arrived. A shout went up from some of the clergy who were still milling about: “A prayer to protect the police!” They flocked around the officers and, in a semicircle, stood facing them.
In the thin winter light, the ministers began to pray in Spanish, their voices rising with fervor. Their hands stretched above their heads, reaching out over the officers, who stood silently facing the crowd. As the prayers echoed across Tompkins Avenue, one police officer closed his eyes.
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