Hundreds of mourners were due to gather at a New York City church on Friday to pay their respects for one of two policemen shot by a gunman who said he was avenging the killings this summer of unarmed black men by white officers.
Targeted for their uniform, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were slain last weekend while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The two officers had been reassigned from another precinct following complaints about violent crime from residents at a housing project.
Friday's wake at Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens, New York City, was for Ramos, 40, who had been on the force for two years and was raising two teenage sons with his wife, Maritza, according to the church and city officials.
Draped in the New York Police Department's green, white and blue flag, Ramos's coffin was carried into the church by police officers in dress uniform shortly after noon, as colleagues from his Brooklyn station house stood saluting.
Thousands of police officers from departments around the country were expected to join U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and city and state officials for Ramos's funeral service at the church on Saturday.
Police had yet to announce details for the funeral of Liu, 32, while federal officials helped some of his relatives in China travel to the United States.
The execution-style killing was so swift, according to the city's police commissioner, that the officers may never have seen their assailant, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, who soon after shot himself and died in a nearby subway station.
Brinsley, who was black, wrote online before the attack that he wanted to kill a couple of police officers to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, unarmed black men killed by white policemen in New York and Missouri.
The deaths of Garner and Brown and the decision not to prosecute the officers responsible ignited protests across the country, renewing a debate about race in America that has drawn in U.S. President Barack Obama.
The killing of Ramos and Liu further frayed bonds between many New York police officers and the year-old administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Police union leaders had for months accused protesters, who had de Blasio's qualified support, of stirring up a loathing for police.
Protest leaders expressed horror at the killings, saying they could not be held responsible for the actions of a man described by city officials as emotionally troubled. Brinsley shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore before traveling to Brooklyn.
Since Saturday, police said they had arrested at least four people believed to have made threats of violence against officers in the wake of the shootings.
Relatives of Garner joined civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton on Christmas Day to say prayers for both Ramos and Liu.
Ramos had attended Christ Tabernacle for 14 years and volunteered there as an usher, the church said in a statement. "He had an infectious and disarming smile," the church said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Howard Goller and Christian Plumb)