Hundreds of Maryland police officers traveled to Queens, N.Y., on Saturday to attend the first of two funerals for the New York City police officers gunned down this month by a man whose rampage started in the Baltimore area.
Saturday's service was for Rafael Ramos, who was remembered as a husband, father and police officer. A deeply religious man, he was posthumously made an honorary chaplain. An estimated 25,000 officers attended, most of them standing silently in the street outside the tiny church where the funeral was held and watching on large screens.
That crowd included a contingent of at least 200 to 300 Maryland officers, officials said. Many of them took part in a motorcade up Interstate 95, but others traveled on their own.
"There were streets and streets and streets filled with officers that had just come to be there," said Baltimore Police Detective Ruganzu Howard, who attended the funeral.
Ramos and his partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, 32, were gunned down on Dec. 20 by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, who first shot his ex-girlfriend at her Owings Mills apartment. Baltimore County police, who had been in contact with New York authorities about threats toward officers being posted online by Brinsley, sent its color guard to the funeral.
"Any time we lose a police officer in the line of duty, it's important for all of us to take a minute to stop and reflect," said Cole Weston, the president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police. "This particular case, having ties to Baltimore County … brought it even closer to home."
Brinsley, who lived in Georgia and had a reported history of mental illness, had posted anti-police messages on social media that referred to the deaths of unarmed men that have sparked widespread protest. Police union leaders have accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio of creating a hostile climate that set the stage for the officers to be killed.
When de Blasio spoke at the funeral, many uniformed officers turned their backs in a sign of protest.
The Howard County, Md., Police Officers Association, whose president, Gregory Der, attended the funeral, posted a picture on Twitter of the officers turning around.
"[Officers] turned their back on him, as he did to them," the union wrote in an accompanying message.
Shane Schapiro, union president for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department, criticized the news media and those who have taken part in demonstrations criticizing against law enforcement officers in recent weeks.
"Everyone is quick to call out the police, but who do they call when there's trouble?" said Schapiro, who attended the funeral. "Unfortunately, you have these armchair quarterbacks and media that criticize officers when it takes an officer a split-second to decide whether to pull a trigger or to pepper spray or to tase."
Lt. T.J. Smith, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said the agency formally sent about a dozen officers up. He said a call was put out seeking volunteers.
"It was a first-come, first-serve basis," Smith said. "It filled up within minutes."
Though the killings of the New York City officers have been particularly high-profile, Smith said Anne Arundel County police try to send representatives to the funerals of other area police officers killed in the line of duty, noting that officers were sent to the funeral of a Pennsylvania state trooper killed in September.
Twelve Baltimore police officers, including patrol chief Col. Darryl DeSousa, attended the funeral, said Howard, a department spokesman. The officers came from a variety of units.
Baltimore Sun reporter Joe Burris contributed to this article.