Hundreds mourn Philadelphia officer killed in crash

Posted: July 13, 2012

In a ceremony both somber and uplifting, hundreds of police officers from around the region and beyond joined dozens of relatives, friends, and city officials Friday to pay tribute to Brian J. Lorenzo, the Philadelphia police highway patrol officer killed in a crash on I-95.

At the noontime funeral inside the packed Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Lorenzo, 48, was recalled as a dedicated husband and father, and an outstanding police officer.

Officers from as far away as Baltimore and Atlantic City, many of them motorcycle police, filled the park space across from the cathedral in a display of solidarity.

On the sidewalk next to the cathedral sat a gleaming white police motorcycle, similar to Lorenzo's own bike. The cycle bore his name, and his burnished black boots were positioned backward on its foot pegs.

Behind the bike was a large color photograph of Lorenzo in uniform, standing on the seat with his arms outstretched.

Many officers snapped photos of the display. A jumbo television screen, positioned next to the bike, provided images of the funeral for those outside the filled cathedral.

A block away, at 17th and Vine Streets, about 200 sparkling police motorcycles from various departments lined the roadway on both sides. A drum and bagpipe troupe played after the service.

Speaking from the pulpit, Mayor Nutter hailed Lorenzo, a married father of three, as a role model for police and firefighters in the city.

"We mourn the death of a great public servant, a great individual who has done his job and done it well," Nutter said.

Lorenzo had finished his shift Sunday and was on his patrol motorcycle heading to his home in Northeast Philadelphia about 3:15 a.m. He was riding north on I-95 near the Cottman Avenue exit when he was struck by a southbound Audi A6 traveling in the wrong direction, police said.

John Leck Jr., 47, of Levittown, was charged with third-degree murder and homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence. He is being held without bail.

Inside the cathedral, Nutter offered condolences to Lorenzo's family: wife Linda, sons Brian II and Dominic, daughter Marissa, mother Brunilda, two brothers, and a sister.

"We will never forget you," Nutter told the family. "We love you."

Describing Lorenzo, a 23-year police veteran who was an instructor for motorcycle officers, as a "great human being," Nutter said he knew Lorenzo and last saw him working on the night of July Fourth.

"Brian always did his duty," Nutter said. "Let us try to live up to the standard he set for us."

Lorenzo's brother Manuel, also a Philadelphia policeman, said Brian was a major influence for him.

"Brian played big roles in my life," "Manny" Lorenzo said. "Not only was he my big brother, he was my best friend."

His voice breaking, Manuel Lorenzo said he struggled with his brother's death every day. "And I hear him in the background saying, 'Everything is going to be OK.' "

In Millville, N.J., hundreds of law enforcement officers also attended the funeral Friday for another police officer killed in the line of duty.

Christopher Reeves, 40, died Sunday when his patrol car was struck by a vehicle being pursued after it had hit another police car. An officer in Reeves' car was injured.

Timothy Seidel, 23, of Commercial Township, is charged with aggravated manslaughter and related offenses.

Reeves is survived by his wife, also a Millville police officer, and their 2-year-old son.

At Lorenzo's funeral, Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Lorenzo was an outstanding, decorated officer.

Ross said Lorenzo "was proud to be a Philadelphia police officer. . . . He was an excellent officer and an excellent educator," a reference to Lorenzo's work as a police motorcycle instructor.

The Rev. Robert Bazolli, a cousin of Lorenzo's wife, delivered the homily, telling the officer's family, "We walk with you in this time of profound sorrow."

"Our hearts are heavy as we search for answers to Brian's death. . . . Still we find no answers."

Nutter attributed Lorenzo's death to the "irresponsible behavior by another . . . we see all too often in Philadelphia."

The mayor told the gathering, "Unfortunately we've been in this place under these circumstances far too many times. Let's dedicate ourselves to good service. Let us dedicate ourselves so that we are not here again under these circumstances."


Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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