Police, citizens, family mourn a fallen Phila. officer

Posted: September 12, 2008

Family, friends, the city's police force and its civic leaders bid farewell this afternoon to police officer Isabel Nazario, killed on duty Sept. 5 when her patrol car was struck by a stolen car.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was filled to overflowing with police officers, and hundreds more stood outside, as Cardinal Justin Rigali and three bishops said her funeral mass.

"Once again the tragedy of violence, pain and separation has struck our community, our city, our commonwealth," Rigali said in his homily. He went on to praise Nazario's "daily contribution to her loved ones and the whole community" and the risks and sacrifice that all police officers make.

"For all this we are deeply grateful," said Rigali, who also spoke several prayers and a part of the homily in Spanish

Nazario, 40, had been an 18-year veteran of the department's narcotics strike force.

After a morning-long viewing in the cathedral's sanctuary that drew thousands of mourners past her open casket, the white coffin was closed shortly past noon and covered with a cream-and-gold drape that matched the priests' and bishops' vestments.

Among those attending was her patrol partner, Officer Terry Tull, who left the hospital where he is recuperating from severe injuries.

Tull, who suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and a bruised hip in last Friday's fatal vehicle pursuit, was brought to the cathedral by ambulance. He entered in a wheelchair through a side door and was comforted by friends and family members.

City officials, including Mayor Nutter and District Attorney Lynn Abraham and Police Chief Charles Ramsey sat on the left of the cathedral, which seats about 1,500.

The Nazario family, including her mother, sister and 15-year-old daughter, Jazmin, sat to the right, as did her fiance, Philadelphia police officer Carlos Buitrago.

Nazario will be buried in her native Puerto Rico.

Members of her family did the two scripture readings. Her mother, Patricia Rodriguez Santiago, her sister, Maritza Mohamad, along with her daughter and an unidentified family member presented the wine, water and bread for the eucharist.

They all held hands as Rigali and the bishops spoke the words of consecration.

"She was a wonderful mother," said a tearful Cathy Santos, who was Jazmin's fifth grade teacher at St. Hugh of Cluny parochial school in West Kensington. Santos was sitting with about eight other teachers from that school and Franklin Town Charter School, which Jazmin now attends.

At the close of Mass, 130 members of the police department's strike force, of which Nazario was a member, filed past the casket and set four vases of red roses on the communion rail.

The nine honorary pall bearers were also members of the strike force.

As the family followed the coffin at the recession, Tull gripped Nazario's sister's hand as he was wheeled behind.

Outside, by the cathedral steps, both sides of 18th Street were filled with police officers, who carried 37 flags and departmental banners and stood at rigid salute as the coffin emerged. For half a minute the only sound was that of passing cars and the splashing of Logan Fountain in the distance.

"It's hard," said officer George Schmid after the dismissal. "She and I worked in the same squad for six years."

Her sudden death was a reminder, said Schmid, of the danger every officer faces on the job.

"Every day you walk the door to work," he said, "and you never know."

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.

Staff writers Robert Moran and Lisa Helmreich also contributed to this article

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