Another farewell to the fallen Final tribute is paid to Officer Pawlowski

Posted: February 21, 2009

Another fallen Philadelphia police officer was laid to rest yesterday, surrounded by thousands of mourners numbed by a frigid winter wind and a sense of disbelief.

Officer John Pawlowski, 25, the fifth officer killed in the line of duty in less than a year, was buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem after a Funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

"Here we are again, five times in less than 10 months, standing here in the Cathedral Basilica, laying to rest another hero," said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

Pawlowski was shot dead on Feb. 13 at Broad Street and Olney Avenue by a man who police said fired a gun hidden in a coat pocket.

A five-year veteran and the son and brother of police officers, Pawlowski was married last fall and left a wife, Kim, who is five months pregnant with their first child.

The tragedy of the unborn, fatherless child was a recurring theme yesterday. Pawlowski was interred in a brushed copper casket holding a sonogram of his son.

"It is the only time he will get to hold his baby," said Officer Charles Mellon, a 25th District officer who was among the guard that saluted the casket as it arrived at the cathedral before dawn in a horse-drawn hearse.

Ramsey said he was "haunted" by Kim Pawlowski's lament, shortly after learning of her husband's death, that their son would never know his father.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, in his homily, remarked that the city's violence "has even invaded the sacred precincts of the womb and affected the life of the unborn innocent child."

Kim Pawlowski, who was a childhood sweetheart of the slain officer, was a portrait of anguish as she emerged from the cathedral behind her husband's flag-drapped coffin.

Embraced by relatives, the young widow wept as the casket was lifted into a silver hearse amid martial symbolism - bagpipes wailing, drums beating, flags snapping, and hundreds of officers saluting. Representatives of police agencies from as far away as Canada and Virginia attended.

Pawlowski's body was then escorted to the cemetery in a massive motorcade led by a thundering column of motorcycles. The traffic-stopping procession projected an image of order, authority and solemnity on a city where disorder and disrespect too often seem to prevail.

"We are being tested as a city; we need to acknowledge that," Mayor Nutter said in remarks before the Mass. He said he wanted to send a message to those who would defy the law.

"To those who may threaten the citizens of this city, you cannot beat us. And to those who would test the resolve of this Philadelphia Police Department, let me say this: We are stronger than you, we are better trained than you, and we're prepared for anything that anyone may do, because we are resilient."

The deaths of the five officers in the last year - three by gunfire, two in motor vehicle collisions - occurred during a period when the city's homicide rate was falling from its 2006 peak. After dropping by 15 percent last year, the homicide count so far this year is down by a further 8 percent.

Police said Pawlowski was shot several times after he and his partner confronted Rasheed Scruggs, 33, who had harassed a man across from the Olney Transportation Center. Scruggs was then shot by police, but survived.

"I don't know why this happened," Ramsey said yesterday at the cathedral, addressing Kim Pawlowski. "It shouldn't have happened. There is no reason that I can think of. But I can tell you this, Kimmy. We will never, ever leave your side."

The slain officer's sister, Lauren Pawlowski, described his growth from a shy boy to a strapping teenager to a carefree party animal. In recent months, she said, he matured as the realization of impending fatherhood sank in.

Pawlowski last year requested a transfer to the 35th District, one of nine violence-prone districts where Ramsey has concentrated officers as part of his crime-fighting strategy. In the summer, Pawlowski gained notice when he tackled and disarmed a gun-toting felon on a bus.

According to his sister, Pawlowski explained the rewards of policing to friends who wondered why he would choose such a high-risk profession.

"Sometimes I look into the eyes of the people I'm helping, and I know that the work I do makes a difference," she quoted him as saying.

Ramsey picked up on that theme in addressing the embattled force at the cathedral.

"We know we do make a difference, and don't think for a moment that we don't," he said.

"John believed it. You believe it. If you want to honor John Pawlowski, then every single day you go to work, you act in a way that's consistent with the honor and the integrity that this man displayed every single day that he put on that uniform."

Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or amaykuth@phillynews.com.

Contributing to this article were staff writers Larry King, Brittany Talarico and Sam Wood.

philly.com

For more photographs and previous coverage, go to http://go.philly.com

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