NYPD Housing officer injured in Coney Island fire dies

Josh Einiger live in Coney Island
April 9, 2014 8:29:25 PM PDT
One of the NYPD housing officers left clinging to life after he was overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide while responding to a fire at a high-rise building in Coney Island died Wednesday morning.

Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, died at Montefiore Medical Center just before 7 a.m.

His funeral will be held Monday morning at St. Rose of Lima Church in Rockaway Beach.

Guerra's 36-year-old partner, Officer Rosa Rodriguez, remains in critical condition in the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Center. She continues to show signs of improvement.

Guerra, a married father of four, was an eight-year veteran of the force. He lived in Far Rockaway where last Friday, neighbors watched him teach his 7-year-old how to ride his bike.

"Hopefully, God has a soul and protects the rest of his family, a wonderful family, wonderful son, mother lives with him," said one neighbor on Wednesday. "She's going to be devastated."

During a flag-lowering ceremony at 1 Police Plaza Wednesday afternoon, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said, "Dennis will always live on in his countless acts of generosity in the lives that he protected, and in the city he helped make safer."

A 16-year-old is charged with arson after he allegedly lit a mattress on fire in the hallway because he was bored. Marcell Dockery is also charged with assault and reckless endangerment, in addition to robbery charges in a separate incident. Law enforcement said Wednesday that Brooklyn prosecutors are expected to go to a grand jury and seek upgraded charges against Dockery. His next court date is Friday.

The city housing authority is moving to evict his family from the Unity Tower, the city-run apartment building where he set the blaze.

"The New York City Housing Authority has commenced the termination of tenancy process for the tenant of record ...," said a statement from the Housing Authority.

"We pray that every young person who hears of the tragic passing of hero police officer Dennis Guerra and of the suffering of officer Rosa Rodriguez and their families, learns that there deadly consequences that result from foolish actions," PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said. "We must learn from this tragedy so that their sacrifices will not have been made in vain. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Guerra and Rodriguez families, friends and their fellow officers."

The fire Sunday at 2007 Surf Ave. started on the 13th floor, and the two officers responded in less than a minute. As residents fled, the officers took the elevator to help people get out.

CLICK HERE to see photos from the scene.

"As soon as the elevator door opened, they were overcome by the smoke that in the hallway," Bratton said. "They were on the floor of the hallway when responding firefighters got there. They never had a chance to come out."

The NYPD is currently reviewing its policy on how officers respond to such incidents.

Rodriguez, a three-year veteran, also has four children.