Manteca police motorcycle officer Patrick Danipour took up JetBlue’s offer for a cost-free flight to attend the funeral of the recently slain 40-year-old NYPD officer Rafael Ramos — a trip that would have cost him at least $1,000 — to join other law enforcement personnel from across the country honoring the officer’s sacrifice.
Ramos and his partner Wenejan Liu were killed without warning when a lone gunman fired into their rear window just a short time before he was scheduled to graduate from the police chaplain’s training academy on that fateful day.
Danipour said it just worked out perfectly that he could use his days off from Friday through Monday to be one of those regular officers totaling more than 17,000 men and women in a sea of blue uniforms, showing their respect and brotherly love.
Danipour said his Christmas week was a whirlwind experience for him and for his family, noting that his wife was very supportive that he go to New York. Their efforts in getting ready for Christmas with their children, not getting to bed until 11 Christmas night and back up again at 3 a.m. the next morning to head for San Francisco International Airport added to a dad’s stress.
“With it being Christmas time, I couldn’t afford it on my own without JetBlue offering to send us free of charge,” he said.
“I went with Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Hatzigeorgiou and we arrived at the airport at 6:55 a.m. We were a bit late and the JetBlue employee at the counter walked us back to the screening area so we could check in our weapons — giving us a priority stamp to guarantee we would get through the process quickly,” he said.
The Manteca officer said there were another 16 officers on their flight representing Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the San Francisco Police Department — “probably the safest plane we could be on. The flight attendants came up and shook our hands, welcoming us on board.”
Danipour said they were able to stay with the Stanislaus County deputy’s family in New York over the four days. Also helping with his family in his absence was his mother-in-law who volunteered to help with taking of his children. His wife is a registered nurse at a Modesto hospital.
There were some 27,000 officers at the funeral with many of them having to stand at the corner of Myrtle and Cypress Hill streets watching the funeral service on huge 20-foot-wide TV screens. “It was great, we could see everything in detail from there,” he said.
He said they stood with other officers some 45 yards away — the closest they could get to the church. He added it was amazing how appreciative the New York officers were to the West Coast officers who had traveled across country to show their support.
“What was nice was seeing the look on the faces of the New York officers. They couldn’t believe we were there. We told them we were in New York to support them in whatever they needed. We stood in the crowd for about three hours from about 9:15 a.m. on,” he said.
Other law enforcement agencies representing the region included Tracy, Ceres, Lodi, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. Upwards of 1,500 officers from throughout the state who were flown to the East Coast by JetBlue, he said. The airline had to charter additional aircraft to fly the officers after using up the scheduled aircraft from their fleet.
The second NYPD funeral is set for this weekend that will include two honor guard officers from the Stockton Police Department attending, according to Stockton PD’s public information officer Joe Silva.
Before flying out on Sunday, he wanted to visit Ground Zero in Manhattan. “When you stand there, and take it all in, your heart just stops,” he recalled. “It was one of the things I wanted to see -- just had to go to Ground Zero.”
Danipour was back home in Manteca Sunday night in time to get ready for work Monday morning monitoring his traffic beat on Manteca’s roadways with a good word to his peers for the airline that made it all possible.