Police Officer Brian Moore served with the NYPD, but he did not root for the Mets or the Yankees.
He was a Baltimore Orioles fan.
So we can imagine his distress when two of his favorite team’s home games were postponed last week and a third was played in an empty stadium amid riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
And Moore would not have needed to be an Orioles fan to share the spooky feeling so many of us experienced upon seeing the images of the deserted stands at Camden Yards while Baltimore played Chicago.
More riots and more postponed games threatened as the Baltimore Police Department completed its investigation and turned over the results to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
But then Mosby surprised everybody except perhaps those who know her by announcing last Friday morning that she was charging all six officers who had been suspended in the incident. One of the cops was charged with murder, three others with manslaughter, the remaining two with assault.
The news was met with cheers from those who might have rioted. And instead of more rampaging, there was dancing in the streets.
But working cops everywhere were shocked by the speed of Mosby’s determinations and the severity of the charges.
Whatever Officer Moore of the NYPD felt about the events down in Baltimore, he set out from home for another tour of duty in the 105th Precinct in Queens on Saturday. His family happens to live on the same suburban street where another young NYPD officer, Edward Byrne, once lived.
Byrne had been just 22 years old when he was shot by a drug lord’s henchman while guarding the residence of a witness back in 1988, in an era in which New York saw some 2,000 murders a year. Moore had not yet been born, but he went to Plainedge High School, where the athletic field was named after Byrne, who also graduated from there.
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Moore and his partner were doing their part in the continuing effort that has reduced murders in the city to fewer than 350 a year. The two cops were coming to the corner of 212th Street and 104th Road when they spotted a man named Demetrius Blackwell fumbling with something in the waistband of his jeans. Moore had seen a man named Ronald Murad do much the same a year before and made a gun collar that led to him receiving a medal for Meritorious Police Duty.
In that earlier case, Murad had run and Moore had chased him down.
On Saturday, Blackwell allegedly produced a gun and fired three times before Moore was even able to climb out of the car. Moore was shot in the face.
At Jamaica Hospital, doctors initially said Moore’s wounds were not life-threatening. But he took a turn for the worse early Sunday.
Just after 11 a.m. on Monday, Moore was pronounced dead. The Mets learned that Moore had purchased tickets to attend Tuesday’s game with Baltimore, one of only two scheduled games between the teams this season. He had planned to go with his girlfriend and his father, Raymond, who is a retired NYPD sergeant.
At the opening home game last month, the Mets had honored the families of two other slain members of the NYPD. Detective Wenjian Liu and Detective Rafael Ramos had been murdered as they sat in their radio car just before Christmas. The crazed gunman had arrived by bus after shooting his girlfriend in Baltimore.
On Tuesday, the Mets honored Moore. The players wore NYPD hats during batting practice. There was a moment of silence in his memory. A huge photo of him went up on the video screens at Citi Field.
“WE SALUTE OUR FALLEN HERO,” read the message below.
Moore’s father and girlfriend did not attend, but several cousins did, and they were seated behind the Orioles’ dugout. Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis was said to have been Moore’s favorite player, and he presented the family with a signed baseball. The Mets won, but Davis was able to do something special for his fallen fan, hitting a home run in the ninth inning.
“I’m glad God came through,” Davis told reporters afterward.
On Thursday morning, there was another moment of silence for Moore, this at the annual NYPD Memorial Day Ceremony at police headquarters. The names of 18 officers who died the previous year were added to the 863 already on the memorial wall.
Fourteen of the new additions had succumbed to the aftereffects of the rescue and recovery effort at Ground Zero after 9/11. Two of the others were Liu and Ramos, whom the Mets had honored. Their deaths had been preceded by a series of protests in New York sparked by the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had initially seemed unperturbed by protesters who blocked streets and bridges while calling decent cops racists and murderers. Protesters assaulted two NYPD lieutenants on the Brooklyn Bridge. Both happened to work for the brother of the murdered Officer Byrne. Deputy Commissioner Larry Byrne is head of the legal bureau and, among other things, he is charged with ensuring that both sides respect the law. The lieutenants were essentially serving as referees when they were attacked.
Then had come the murders of Liu and Ramos. The two worked at the 84th Precinct, which is just on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Many of the officers there had been the subject of verbal abuse or worse by protesters. Some cops joined the police union officials in turning their backs on de Blasio when the mayor arrived at the hospital after the shooting.
The back-turning was repeated at the funeral for Ramos and then the funeral for Liu. Cops noted that de Blasio wore a red tie to Ramos’s send-off.
“Who wears a red tie to a funeral?” a sergeant wondered aloud.
At the Liu funeral, de Blasio wore a dark tie, a small sign he might be learning something.
And the reality of the dangers cops face seemed to have a continuing effect on him over the months that followed. He initially accused the back-turners of disrespecting the Liu and Ramos families, but in the days ahead he sounded increasingly conciliatory and sympathetic to the rank-and-file police. He may even have come to realize that had the cops not made the city safe, the citizenry would never have felt secure enough to elect a progressive such as himself.
When demonstrators took to the streets of New York to protest the death of Freddie Gray down in Baltimore, they no doubt expected to be allowed to troop through the streets with impunity, as they had last year.
To their obvious surprise, 143 of them were arrested. De Blasio afterward bristled at any suggestion that the police had been overly aggressive.
“I’ve participated in plenty of protests, on plenty of issues,” the mayor said at a press conference. “I believe deeply in how nonviolent protest has achieved social change.”
He offered an adage as if it were what he had always believed, though he had failed to voice it during the previous protests.
“When the police give you instruction, you follow the instruction,” he now intoned. “It’s not debatable.”
He blamed all the fuss on the press.
“If you guys want to sensationalize, if you think that’s your contribution to society, feel free,” he said.
But such dishonesty and misdirection does not necessarily mean that his change of heart regarding the NYPD was false. He may simply hate admitting he was wrong.
He certainly has a grand sense of himself, as evidenced when he sat down with Rolling Stone magazine. He suggested that out-of-town people have a greater appreciation than do his constituents for the “extraordinary…transformative” job he has been doing.
“A lot of people outside New York City understand what happened in the first year of New York City better than people in New York City, but I’m convinced something very special happened here,” he was quoted as saying
As would be said in New York, he certainly thinks who he is.
Not for nothing is de Blasio a New England-raised Red Sox fan.
One accomplishment as New York’s mayor that de Blasio would no doubt claim was a sharp reduction in the number of stop-and-frisks without a significant increase in crime.
That was been accompanied by one change that has been obvious to everybody in New York, including the cops. That change is one that de Blasio continues to insist has not been a change at all: his new attitude toward the police.
No backs were turned when he responded to the hospital after Moore was shot.
And de Blasio was the NYPD’s biggest booster when he arrived at Thursday’s Memorial Day ceremony for fallen cops. He was even on time.
In front of the memorial wall stands a life-size 1939 bronze statue of a uniformed police officer with a protective hand over a little boy at his side. The model for the boy was the son of the then-mayor, Fiorello La Guardia.
Last year, when de Blasio’s relationship with the NYPD was going from bad to worse, he had spoken about the need to counsel his biracial son, Dante, to be cautions in any encounters with the police. De Blasio now spoke as he might if his son were the model for the protected child in the statue. He extolled the thousands of cops who routinely run toward danger when the natural impulse is to flee the other way.
“It takes a special person to have that kind of strength,” he said. “Last Saturday, we got another reminder of just how real and present the dangers are.”
De Blasio was speaking of Moore, who was also foremost in Police Commissioner William Bratton’s mind when he stepped up to speak.
“Twenty-five years of age, just beginning his life,” Bratton said. "I would like to believe that there will be a time when we won’t have another name in this wall.”
Bratton then said, “But we are the police.”
Later, Bratton and de Blasio attended Moore’s wake, along with hundreds of cops and family and friends. De Blasio paused outside the funeral home to talk with some of the cops outside before he entered.
The funeral for Moore was to be held Friday morning at St. James Church in Seaford, Long Island, where the funeral for Byrne was held in 1988. Those expected to be in attendance included Byrne’s bother, Larry, as well as thousands of cops from across the country.
Baltimore would no doubt be well-represented, as it was at the funerals for Liu and Ramos. The Baltimore cops will then return to a city where defense attorneys and some legal observers are predicting that State’s Attorney Mosby’s case against the six officers is sure to unravel. There seems to be some significant divergence between the investigation conducted by the police and the one conducted by Mosby’s office.
Mosby has 30 days from the time of arrest to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury or at a preliminary hearing. A spokeswoman said Thursday that Mosby had not yet decided.
In the meantime, a hearing has been scheduled for May 27. That is one day before Moore’s beloved Orioles are expected to play a doubleheader against Chicago to make up for the two that were postponed.
Whether those games are played or postponed again may depend on whether the case against the cops really does come up short.
The riots that were averted last Friday when Mosby announced the charges could return with far greater fury.
The big Los Angeles riots came not when Rodney King was beaten but when the cops charged in the case were acquitted.
Whatever happens in Baltimore in the days ahead, all the cops who assembled from seemingly everywhere for Moore’s funeral will have returned to duty, never knowing if they could suddenly find themselves jammed up or dead.
“You got two choices to make when you go to work now,” a young NYPD cop texted a veteran this week. “Your job or your life.”
As de Blasio seeks to puff himself with his progressive agenda into a national figure, he should be sure also to tell everyone what he has learned about the NYPD.
If he becomes a voice heard beyond the Hudson in more than his own mind, he ought to speak just as he did at the NYPD Memorial Day.
He can tell everybody of brave souls such as young Brian Moore, who rooted for Baltimore.