By Darran Simon
NEW YORK — Dozens of fellow officers, family and friends paid their respects Sunday to NYPD housing officer Dennis Guerra, a father of four who died last week after being trapped in a Brooklyn fire.
The line at James Romanelli-Stephen Funeral Home in Ozone Park moved slowly as mourners, many in uniforms, inched toward the open casket. The viewing evoked memories of Guerra, described as a devoted family man — and anger from at least one person, a former Queens neighbor.
Guerra's hands were covered with white gloves, rosary beads wrapped around his fingers. One of two New York City firefighters standing in front of the casket made a sign of a cross.
Guerra, 38, died early Wednesday of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning after he and fellow officer Rosa Rodriguez, both of Queens, were overcome by dense smoke and toxic fumes in a Coney Island high-rise fire on April 6.
Guerra leaves behind his wife, Cathy; and children Kathleen, 20, Jonathan, 17, Alyssa, 14, and Zachary, 7.
Rodriguez's family, including two of her four children, girls wearing Sunday dresses and police caps, also attended the viewing.
Rodriguez, 36, remained hospitalized.
Friday, charges were upgraded to felony murder against Marcell Dockery, 16, of Brooklyn, who police said started the mattress fire.
The line of visitors stretched outside the Queens funeral home at one point. Inside, a New York State trooper followed firefighters, and stood before the casket and saluted.
Guerra's smiling face was embroidered on a large tapestry.
Young children sat in couches in the back of the room wearing on their chests black buttons bearing images of his face. They read, "In Loving Memory of PO Dennis Guerra." All around, there were photos of Guerra — a single wedding picture, pictures of him with others, smiling for the camera.
A large shield with Guerra's badge number — 5711 — sat on an easel near the coffin.
Maria Cepero, 60, the former neighbor in Far Rockaway, said she was "angry inside" over the loss. She said it was "stupidity" that led to a life being "taken from his family, from his kids."
"This hurts," she said. "He was like a breath of fresh air."
Among those paying respects was NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who did not speak to reporters outside.
"His kids were his world. His mom was his world. His family was his world," said Police Officer Laura Thomasel, a family friend.
"It's sad, but we got an extra angel up in heaven now to watch over all the guys in blue."
Thomasel said she knew Guerra when he was a school safety agent in Queens before he was a police officer.
She said she didn't know Guerra was one of the officers who had raced into the building until she saw his face on the television news. She cried, she said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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