Thousands bid farewell to murdered Chinese-American New York policeman

Police stand in formation down 65th street as they listen to the funeral service for New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Police stand in formation down 65th street as they listen to the funeral service for New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Mourners stand together on the sidewalk as they listen to the funeral service for New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Mourners stand together on the sidewalk as they listen to the funeral service for New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (2nd right) arrives with his Director of Advance Frankie Martinez Blanco (2nd left) for the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. --
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (2nd right) arrives with his Director of Advance Frankie Martinez Blanco (2nd left) for the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrives for the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrives for the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Police officers stand outside during the funeral for slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Police officers stand outside during the funeral for slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Widow Chen Pei Xia holds a photo of her husband, slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian, as his casket departs his funeral in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Sunday. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed for reconciliation on Sunda
Widow Chen Pei Xia holds a photo of her husband, slain New York Police Department officer Liu Wenjian, as his casket departs his funeral in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Sunday. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed for reconciliation on Sunday in his eulogy for the second of two police officers murdered last month, two deaths that led to accusations the mayor had contributed to an anti-police climate. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP/REUTERS) - Thousands of police from across the United States and Canada gathered in New York on Sunday to bid farewell to a murdered officer.

A sea of blue uniformed officers lined the streets outside a Brooklyn funeral home to honor Liu Wenjian, 32, shot in the head with partner Rafael Ramos, 40, on December 20 as the pair sat in their patrol car.

The brutal double-murder at the hands of a black gunman claiming to be avenging the deaths of African-Americans during confrontations with police shocked the nation's largest city.

The funeral was believed to be the city's first for a Chinese-American officer killed in the line of duty, and New York's increasingly diverse police department drew on its growing knowledge of ceremonial rites, including the burning of paper money for Liu, and to adapt its own traditions to the desires of the grieving family.

On Sunday, throngs from the Chinese-American community mingled with the police in the closed streets around the Aievoli Funeral Home in southern Brooklyn.

Blue bows adorned trees and telephone poles. Firemen hung giant flags from the side of a building along with a banner of support.

On a bagel shop storefront across from the funeral home, a message written in Chinese read: "Officer Wen Jian Liu will live in our heart forever," the New York Times reported.

The build-up to Liu's funeral had been dominated by speculation over whether officers would stage a repeat of their protest at Ramos's service last week, when hundreds turned their back on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appeared to support anti-police protests for alleged harsher treatment of minorities.

On Sunday, the vast majority of police outside the Aievoli Funeral Home respected a call not to protest from New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

However, photographs showed dozens of officers again turning away from a giant screen that showed de Blasio addressing mourners.

"All of our city is heartbroken today," de Blasio said, paying tribute to Liu's "courage, sacrifice and kindness."

The mayor said Liu, an only child who had moved with his parents to New York from China as a child, embodied the fabled American dream.

"Detective Liu's story is such a powerful American story. It is such a classic New York story," he said. "A young man who came here from China with his parents at the age of 12 in search of the American dream, in search of the dream that generations have come to New York to find."

Liu's funeral had been delayed so that relatives could arrive from China to pay their respects. His devastated father, wife and cousins paid tribute to the man who used to call himself Joe.

In tears, his young widow Chen Pei Xia, who married Liu just months earlier, said she had lost her "soul mate" and a "wonderful husband".

"Wenjian will always be in my heart. I love you, I love you forever," she said. "Wenjian is an incredible husband, son, coworker and friend. My best friend."

He took pride in working for the Police Department, she said.

"Again, I thank you, my extended family, my family in blue.'"

Liu was an only child and his parents have been left heartbroken by his loss.

"No words can express my sadness," said his father in Cantonese, breaking into tears. He described his devoted son would telephone after every shift during his seven years in the force to reassure his parents that he was safe.

"You are the best son, you are the best husband," he said. "We are very proud of you, we love you forever.

Chen Caiyao, 32, who moved to the United States from China in 2000, was among a crowd of mostly Asian mourners who pressed against barricades on the sidewalk outside the services.

Chen was one of tens of thousands of mourners, a crowd that appeared to be about the same size as the one that gathered for Ramos' funeral. He brought a handmade placard displaying a picture of Liu at his wedding a few weeks ago and a message in Mandarin that translated as: "Walk away easily."

Chen didn't know the slain officer but he said he was particularly saddened because Liu was his parents' only son. "In Chinese tradition, the son carries the blood of the family," he said. "The family is broken now."

Bratton paid tribute to Liu's service. "He was, after all, a good man, a humane man. He was a New York City cop," he said.

"We cannot flag. We will move forward, for we carry the possibility of all those dead and all those who have worn the uniform before us," he added.

Liu's casket, wrapped in the NYPD flag, was laid in a hearse by pallbearers, they then folded the flag and handed it to his sobbing widow.

NYPD officers on motorbikes stretching as far as the eye could see drove past, following a flyover from three police helicopters.

FBI director James Comey, the most senior official to attend the funeral, said 115 police officers were killed in the United States last year, "a shocking increase from 2013".

Liu and Ramos were shot dead by Ismaaiyl Brinsley who also shot his ex-girlfriend on December 20 before carrying out the double murder.

Hours before, Brinsley boasted on Instagram that he intended to attack officers and referenced two unarmed black men killed by police.

De Blasio has ridden a firestorm of criticism in the wake of the shootings from political opponents and police union members.

The resentment flared at Ramos's funeral when officers turned their backs as de Blasio spoke.

Bratton had urged officers not to repeat the protest at Liu's service, arguing that it deflected attention away from the focus of the funeral.

"A hero's funeral is about grieving, not grievance," Bratton wrote in a memo to 34,000 New York police officers.

Some officers remain angered with de Blasio for remarks about police relations with black Americans that they say incited the shooting and over his statement that he counsels his son to be particularly careful around officers.