Dennis Guerra, NYPD Officer Lost in Coney Island High-Rise Fire, “Did Not Die in Vain”


On Monday morning, members of the NYPD filed quietly into the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn. They were there to mourn one of their own: Dennis Guerra died five days earlier of severe smoke inhalation. He was 38 years old, a father of four, and the first New York police officer to lose his life in the line of duty in more than two years.

Guerra and his partner Rosa Rodriguez responded to a fire at a Coney Island NYCHA building on Sunday April 6. Sixteen-year-old Marcell Dockery later told police he was bored when he decided to set fire to a mattress in the hallway of the building’s 13th floor.

According to the NYPD, the officers rode the elevator to the site of the fire, where they were overcome by smoke almost as soon as the doors slid opened. Both were rescued by members of the FDNY who arrived shortly after. Rodriguez remains in critical but stable condition at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where doctors are treating her for symptoms of severe smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Duty came first. It always did with Dennis,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the funeral on Monday, “Without a heartbeat’s hesitation, he and officer Rosa Rodriguez did what so many wouldn’t have had the courage to do.”

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton remembered Guerra as “a cop’s son and a cop’s cop;” he promised mourners Guerra “did not die in vain.” The mayor and police commissioner were joined at the service by Fire Department Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and Reverend Fulgencio Gutierre, who officiated Guerra’s wedding.

Dockery was arraigned last week on arson, assault and reckless endangerment charges; on Friday, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson announced he would be pursuing second-degree murder charges against the teen as well, vowing, “We will bring the defendant to justice for these terrible and horrific crimes.” The Daily News reports NYCHA is now moving to evict Dockery’s mother from her apartment.