Family buries girl who died from asthma attack

September 1, 2010 2:52:56 PM PDT
Mourners gathered Wednesday to offer a final goodbye to 11-year-old Briana Ojeda, who died from an asthma attack. Meanwhile, the NYPD officer accused of delaying aid to her has been identified and suspended.

A horse-drawn carriage carried the small white coffin to the front of St. Francis Xavier parish, where the funeral was held, as family and friends wiped tears from their eyes. Her parents wore white for the solemn occasion, and as they stood outside the funeral car, mom Carmen Ojeda was heard sobbing.

Family members are still shocked that Briana's life ended so quickly and, they say, preventably.

"You always expect elders to pass away, but it's very shocking when a young child dies," cousin Lillian Maldonado said. "And it was very unexpected."

The suspension of the officer who apparently refused to help has done very little to ease the pain and the suffering.

Officer Alfonso Mendez, 30, has been suspended without pay for failure to take proper police action. He is a 5-year veteran who stopped Carmen Ojeda on her way to the hospital while Briana was suffering the asthma attack. Carmen Ojeda says the officer told her he didn't know CPR and allegedly refused to help.

"It's a shame that it took four days for this officer to come forward and reveal himself," father Michael Ojeda said.

The Ojedas finally got the call from the NYPD's internal affairs division Tuesday, telling them officer Mendez, who lives in Ridgweood, Queens, had been found.

Police say Mendez was on his way to patrol the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday night when his world collided with the dying girl. But instead of emerging a hero, his actions are being questioned.

"You hear people screaming, 'She needs CPR, she needs CPR,'" witness Erica Domenech said. "The mother is telling him, 'Do you know CPR?' With a smirk on his face, he said, 'No, I don't know CPR.'"

Officials say all officers are trained in CPR at the police academy.

Carmen Ojeda begged the officer to help her get Briana to the hospital, but she says he refused. Once they finally got to the emergency room, it was too late.

"Just say you're sorry, that's all I want," Carmen said. "Give her peace."

The NYPD traced the officer through his gas card. They say Mendez had filled up at the 76th Precinct that day. Witnesses then identified him through a photo.