Local Summit County Lieutenant attends NYC officer’s services
January 6, 2015
Summit County Lieutenant John Lange had been standing in formation for nearly two hours, when he started to feel a deep, rumble beneath his feet.
It sent chills throughout his body, as the cold rain fell on Lange and the other officers standing on 17th Street in Brooklyn on Sunday.
Once the funeral procession for New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Wenjian Liu began, it donned on Lange where the vibrations were coming from: more than 350 motorcycles slowly leading the procession.
Standing there, Lange tried to ascertain where fellow officers were from: Louisiana, Florida, and Iowa. The streets were lined for blocks with officers from all over North America wearing the colors of their departments.
"To look down the street and see nothing but hats and uniforms from all over– they wore blue, green, brown– anything you could imagine," Lange said from New York City in a phone interview with The Park Record. "It was heartwarming to see."
Lange and officers from agencies all over the country traveled to New York City for Liu, who was fatally shot along with his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos, on Dec. 20 while the two sat in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
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"There probably wasn’t an officer in this nation or the world that saw this happen and didn’t have some very strong feelings about the situation," Lange said. "It comes at a very crucial time with what we are seeing as police officers and what we are hearing with everything that is going on. There is a lot of frustration and there is equally as much frustration from police officers. In every job there are always good and bad employees and I can say as a police officer of more than 19 years now, 98 percent are in it for the good."
When Lange came across an email last month from the airline company, JetBlue, offering free airfare for up to two officers per agency, he called the airline company and reserved a spot.
"The mere fact that two officers were murdered in cold blood, I felt the need to be there and that’s why I said I am going to go," he said. "I felt it was something I needed to do."
Thousands of fellow officers felt the same and were welcomed with open arms by their NYPD counterparts, who offered to pick up officers from the airport or help secure lodging.
"New York police officers, they are top notch the way they treated us," Lange said. "I can’t tell you how many officers came up to me, and not only officers, but brass and administration that shook my hand and said, ‘thank you for coming’.
"It gets me choked up because it’s like a family we haven’t seen for a long time," he said. "They were so warm and so welcoming and appreciative of us coming in from all over."
Lange attended Liu’s wake on Saturday, at the Aievoli Funeral Home, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, with two West Valley City officers he saw at the airport.
When they arrived at the wake, umbrella-less, a torrential downpour and barely above freezing temperatures greeted them. But as they were getting out of the car, a woman gave the officers umbrellas.
"She just gave them to us and I said, ‘how can we get these back to you?" he said. "She just said, ‘don’t worry about it’ and left. It sent that feeling through your body of just warmth and you get a little shot of adrenaline, and you just think some people do really respect us and the profession. We were in shock and we kind of walked away saying, ‘wow what a nice individual and nice lady’."
During his three-day stay in New York, Lange encountered similar random acts of kindness from New Yorkers and NYPD officers. After the wake, one officer invited Lange to lunch and the men exchanged emails.
"It was somewhat bittersweet," he said. "On one hand, we were there to pay respects and the mood was very somber. But there were some light conversations and they were intrigued, asking where Summit County was. There were a lot of eyebrows raised and they shook their heads, as they said it was wonderful and great for us to come."
As Lange stood in the rain saluting Officer Lui and the cars, carrying Lui’s family, as they passed 17th Street, he noticed an older gentleman sitting in his window across the street, with an American flag draped over the window sill.
The man kept smiling and showing those on the streets below a photo of his son, in uniform.
"It was amazing," he said. "He just kept smiling at us."
After the bagpipes music ended and the streets cleared, Lange bid farewell to those he had just met.
"I walked away very somber and sad, but very proud that I went and that I could pay Officer Liu the respect he deserves," he said. "I’m still choked up. I’ve been to a lot of law-enforcement funerals, but never to one of this magnitude. At least me being there and being that one person from the agency, and knowing that Summit County was represented gave me a little bit of satisfaction. I felt like I owed it to them."
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