- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - New York City police Officer Dennis Guerra was an example of “valor and devotion to duty” who acted with selflessness and heroism long before he answered a call to a Brooklyn apartment fire last week that killed him, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday at Guerra’s funeral.

Guerra, 38, pulled a young boy from a car on the Belt Parkway last summer just before an overheated tire exploded, de Blasio said, and he brought “reassurance and smiles” along with food and supplies in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, reporting to work even after the storm battered his home.

“Duty came first,” de Blasio told mourners at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Queens’ Far Rockaway neighborhood. “It always did with Dennis.”

Guerra died Wednesday, days after he and his partner, Rosa Rodriguez, were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide while responding to a mattress fire on the 13th floor of a Coney Island public housing complex.

A 16-year-old boy has been indicted on a felony murder charge and faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Police said he set the April 6 fire out of boredom.

De Blasio said the city would posthumously promote Guerra, the first NYPD officer killed in the line of duty since 2011, to detective first class.

Guerra’s father is a retired Queens homicide detective. Guerra often sent his father text messages alerting him to his latest bust for illegal drugs, guns or disorderly conduct, Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

“It came with the territory and Dennis seemed to revel in it,” Bratton said.

Officers filled the church with what Bratton called a “sea of blue” and overflowed onto the streets outside. Men and women in full dress uniform, from the NYPD, the state police and other law enforcement agencies, stood three and four deep and stretched several blocks from the church toward a nearby subway station.

The NYPD, Bratton told Guerra’s relatives, “will always be your family.”

Phil Cicia, the owner of a Far Rockaway liquor store, says Guerra’s funeral reminded him of the memorials held for the dozens of firefighters from the neighborhood who died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Both were marked by the sound of bagpipes, drums and whirling helicopters.

He called Guerra’s death senseless and said “it’s like a bad feeling from the past.”

Rodriguez, 33, remained in critical but stable condition, and de Blasio asked mourners to keep her in their hearts.

Guerra was survived by his wife, Cathy, and children Kathleen, 20; Jonathan, 17; Alyssa, 14; and Zachary, 7. A brother-in-law, Curtis Mitchell, remembered Guerra as a family man, a “foodie” and a jokester who “always had a way of turning a bad situation around by cracking a joke and putting a smile on your face.”

Many people regarded Guerra a hero after the fire, Mitchell said, “but to many of the family he was always a hero and will always live on in our hearts and memories as such.”

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