RIP Officer Dennis Guerra

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

April 9, 2014 1:16:44 PM PDT
Next time you pass a cop on the street, slow down, maybe even stop, and take a good look at his or her face.

Chances are you'll a fairly young person, whose eyes and brain are always on two parallel tracks. They're cautious and skeptical, while, at the same time, trying to be open and welcoming and smiling.

At least that's how it's supposed to work ? these two tracks of reality, always being on guard and ready for action, and always being aware of the public and the public relations part of their job. Of course it doesn't always work out like that, but for the most part it does.

In New York, home to the biggest police force in America, the cops are not well paid and there are thousands fewer of them than there were a decade ago.

I walked by several groups of officers today, and I couldn't help but stop, thank them, and tell them I was sorry for what happened to one of their own. NYPD officer Dennis Guerra, just 36 years old and assigned to the housing unit, died this morning, the victim of what sounded like a routine call on Sunday. He and his partner, Rosa Rodriguez, took the elevator to the 13th floor of a building in Coney Island in Brooklyn, and when the doors opened, they were overwhelmed by smoke and carbon monoxide.

When firefighters arrived, they took the stairs, per FDNY policy they found the unconscious officers in the dark, blackened, smoke-filled hallway and quickly got them into the elevator, and rode it down. The smoke came from a mattress fire, set ablaze, police say, by a 16 year old boy who said he was just bored.

It is a heartbreaking story, and our hearts are heavy for Guerra's family a wife, and their four children, ages 7 to 20. The police force is also in mourning. So go ahead, the next time you see a cop on the street, stop and say hello and thank them.

Meanwhile, Officer Rodriguez, a mother of 4, is still in critical condition.

Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest on her condition, and on the Commissioner Bill Bratton's attempt to device a policy for the NYPD about how to enter a building after a reported fire. New York cops have no such policy, and Bratton clearly wants to change that, and at least provide something positive to emerge from Officer Guerra's tragic death. Our Josh Einiger is on the story for us.

Also at 11, our N.J. Burkett is outside Pittsburgh, the scene of a brutal and bloody mass stabbing at a high school. Up to 19 students hurt ? many of them seriously ? by a 16-year-old boy armed with two knives. What in the world sparked this?

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg with his AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports.

I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.


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