Editor’s Note: This story appeared in Friday’s online version of The Daily Beast. We reprint in part here.
Det. Rafael Ramos spent a lifetime trying to become a police officer, entering the academy at age 38. Then, just two years into the job, he was cut down.
On Saturday, the bagpipes will keen and twin buglers will play taps and an honor guard will shoulder the flag covered coffin of NYPD Det. Rafael Ramos, whose boyhood nickname, Pote, was inspired by his uncommon goodness while growing up in Brooklyn’s most dangerous neighborhood.
“Tu eres como chuleria en pote,” goes the Puerto Rican expression that gave rise to his moniker. “You are like goodness in a jar.”
That goodness steered him clear of the Sex Boys, the Crazy Homicides, the Sons of Nuns, and the other gangs of East New York. And it led him in his teenage years to declare his ambition to become a cop.
“I want to make a difference,” he told his friend Israel Marrero. “I’m tired of the stuff that’s going on in our neighborhood.”
The NYPD remained his ultimate goal as he went to work as a carrier for Airborne Express/DHL and then as a school safety officer. He happened to be assigned to the Police Officer Rocco Laurie Intermediate School on Staten Island, where every workday brought a reminder of the dangers a cop faces.
By the front desk where Marrero would sit was a huge reproduction of NYPD shield 11019, the one worn by Officer Rocco Laurie when he and his partner, Gregory Foster, were assassinated by black militants on the Lower East Side in 1972.
he daily message of that outsized shield to Ramos was that just wearing the NYPD inform can make you a target.
“He would be sitting and looking at it every day,” the school’s principal, Peter Mecallari, remembers.
But Ramos seemed only more determined to become a police officer. And his performance in the school was a daily message to everyone; the same combination of unshakable goodness and true street wisdom that made him the perfect school safety officer and would also make him the perfect cop.