NEW YORK — In emotional remarks Feb. 2 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the sister of slain Officer Wilbert Mora paid tribute to her brother and his late partner, Officer Jason Rivera, but also decried the “violence and crime” taking the lives of police as they try to protect the citizenry.
“It hurts me to know that two exemplary young men, like Officer Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, were taken before their time,” Karina Mora told the mourners who packed the cathedral for the funeral Mass for her brother.
The service took place less than a week after Rivera’s funeral Mass, also at the cathedral.
These were two young men “who wanted to make a difference and a change in their city with their service and their sacrifice,” said Karina Mora, who spoke in Spanish, with her words interpreted in English for the congregation.
“Now I only ask myself, how many Wilberts, how many Jasons, how many more officers will have to lose their lives for this system to change?” she said. “How many other lives who protect us will be taken away by violence and crime? How many mothers?
“How many more mothers, how many children will have to lose their family and live this trauma and this kind of tragedy?”
New York police “protect us, but who protects them?” she asked. “Who watches out for their lives? That I don’t know. But what I do know, and so do you, who are the ones responsible to stop this kind of tragedy to continue — lawmakers. Do something!”
Wilbert Mora and Rivera were gunned down in Harlem Jan. 21 while responding to a domestic call. River died that night, while Mora, who was shot in the head, fought for his life in the hospital. He underwent two surgeries but succumbed to his injuries Jan. 25.
He donated his organs to five individuals, saving their lives, and this act was hailed as just one more example of the selflessness he demonstrated in life on the job and with his family.
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan presided at the funeral Mass for Mora, which drew thousands of police officers and first responders from New York City, New York state and jurisdictions around the country.
Thousands in uniform filled the cathedral pews, and thousands more mourned outside the cathedral along with ordinary citizens.
The scene was a repeat of what happened for Rivera’s funeral Mass Jan. 28; Cardinal Dolan presided over the earlier service as well.
Like his 22-year-old partner, Mora, 27, was Dominican American, and the two young men were part of what news reports describe as “a growing contingent” of Latino officers in the ranks of the New York Police Department.
The 6-foot-3 Mora was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to New York with his family when he was about 7 years old. He was a member of the NYPD Cadet Corps and graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a bachelor’s degree in 2018, the same year he joined the force.
His older brother, Wilson, one of three siblings of Mora, also delivered an emotional remembrance of his baby brother, saying: “I never got the chance to tell you how truly special I thought you were. I remember how you always lit up the room with your smile, easy vibes — there wasn’t an ounce of meanness in your whole body.”
“Everyone says you’re a big teddy bear of a man. You were like that even when you were little. Mom showered us with love, and you absorbed it like a sponge,” he said. “So as an adult, I saw your love for your friends and for people come out in ways that others can’t. You were impossibly patient with me even when I was at my worst.”
He said the two “had so many plans together. We were supposed to travel, go camping and go on road trips. I wanted to experience the adventure with you because your love for life was infectious.”
“I just want you to know that I was always proud of you,” Wilson Mora said. “You chose a life of service to your community and to our adopted country. Your fellow officers were not only co-workers, they were friends and family, and now they’re my family. I love you, baby bro. I will always miss you.”
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell announced she was promoting Mora posthumously to detective first grade; Rivera also was promoted posthumously to the same rank at his funeral.
Being a police officer “was the most loved, significant, inextricable part” of Mora’s life, the commissioner told the congregation.
“Even among the city’s skyscrapers, scaffolding and buildings, at 6-3 tall, police officer Wilbert Mora was still a giant,” Sewell said. “His mother called him ‘King Kong’ and her strapping big boy. At an early age, like the fabled character, he too found his way to the Empire State.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams, a retired police officer, said: “We reflect on his bravery. We remember his sacrifice. It is New Yorkers against the killers and we will not lose. We will protect our city.”
He remembered “feeling the wait of my mother as she collapsed in my arms” on the day he retired in 2006, after 22 years as a police officer.
“I realized she did every tour with me every night. Every night you wear the blue uniform, but your family feels it every day,” Adams said. “It is why we are bound by our oath and our honor to stand together to salute (Mora’s) service as we commend his spirit. Let’s pray for Mora and his family and friends. Their pain is our pain.”
“Mora was not only a dedicated public servant but an exceptional young man,” he added.