Paying Respects to a Fallen Officer

The line in front of Claude R. Boyd-Spencer Funeral Home in West Babylon, N.Y., formed about 1 p.m. and did not begin thinning until late afternoon, when the sun began to set and the dry air turned markedly colder.

Hundreds of people, most of them New York police officers, braced the cold temperatures and light wind for more than two hours to pay respects to Officer Peter J. Figoski, who was fatally shot early Monday while responding to a robbery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.

“It’s the unfortunate perfect storm,” said John Pizzuto, a Suffolk County police officer who, along with other Suffolk officers, helped those attempting to cross West Main Street, the busy thoroughfare where the funeral parlor is located.

“You’ve got a real tragedy, and it comes at Christmas,” he added. “Makes you put life in perspective. I used to live in the city, but tonight, I’ll go home and hug my three kids.”

The mood of those waiting patiently in line to get inside the funeral parlor shifted as the hours wore on. The sun was bright at 2 p.m., when the first viewing began. Those taking the mourners’ place in line in the parlor’s parking lot openly embraced and occasionally got out of line to hug someone they recognized. There were handshakes and kisses on cheeks. Many greeted old patrol buddies. Most made small talk as they started to shiver standing outside.

“It took me an hour fifteen from Staten Island to get here,”  one officer from the 120th Precinct said to a fellow officer from the same station house. “And yeah, it must have been longer for those from the Bronx, but I would have made it no matter what.”

Some uniformed officers wore white gloves, while others placed them through the shoulder epaulets of their blue blazers. Retired officers told stories to active younger officers. Others stood silently. Just after 3, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly arrived.

Inside the funeral home, a large television screen displayed a slide show of photographs of Officer Figoski’s while recorded soft piano music played in the background. Dozens of photographic images kept with his reputation as a suburban father devoted to his four daughters; there was Officer Figoski kneeling down to hug one of his girls at her First Communion. Many pictures showed the officer in a wide embrace, anchoring two girls on either side of him. There he was, off duty, in casual clothes, napping on a sofa with a dachshund on his belly. Another picture showed him on vacation, leaning against a railing of the Norwegian Spirit cruise ship with a bright smile.

At 4:15 p.m., the heart of the original line finally made it inside the viewing room. Officer Figoski’s fellow command officers from the 75th Precinct stood sentinel at the room’s doorways. The interactions of these police officers seemed understandably intimate, and many of them appeared visibly exhausted yet steely eyed.

“Yeah, he was in my patrol squad,” one officer said of Officer Figoski. “He was really a good guy.”

At the front of the room, next to a floral spray intended to be a large replica of his badge, lay the body of Officer Figoski, in his dress uniform with his hat placed in his hands. There was no sign of the facial wound that proved fatal. His parents; his ex-wife, Paulette; and his four daughters greeted their closest friends and associates while most moved past the family and focused directly on the coffin — not in disrespect, but to respect the family’s privacy and stamina in this trying scene.

Seemingly exhausted from the large crowd, Officer Figoski’s immediate family members left the viewing room at 4:30 p.m. to eat and ready themselves for the evening viewing.

Two blocks away from Boyd’s Funeral Home, a group of Officer Figoski’s fellow 75th Precinct officers decided to warm themselves up before the second viewing by ducking into a nearby Starbucks. One was Lieutenant Walter Caban, who is in the precinct’s special forces unit.

“What can I say? Cypress Hills is rough, and we’re a very close precinct,” he said with a wistful smile. “He was a wonderful man, and it’s a great loss to all of us. He and I both have daughters, and he wanted to keep his daughters safe. I just want to say thank you. Thank you for coming and honoring him.”

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