(Published in 24 Hours Dec. 20, 2011)

Funeral emphasizes dangers of the job


   By Leo Knight


NYPD officer Peter Figoski, killed Dec. 12 after being shot in the face while backing up fellow officers responding to a home invasion robbery, was given a funeral with full honours Monday that was attended by more 10,000 police from across America.

Replete with the mournful sound of the black-draped bagpipes and muffled drums of the NYPD Pipe Band, more than 15,000 mourners stood outside St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Long Island.

In a conversation yesterday with a retired NYPD detective, we recalled the first police funerals we had attended as young officers. His was for NYPD officer Anthony Venditti. For me it was RCMP Const. Tom Agar, a 26-year-old who had a toddler daughter and a very pregnant wife.

Agar was shot in cold blood by Stephen Lee LeClair in September 1980.

LeClair had been tossed from the then-named Palace Hotel bar at 37 W. Hastings. He came back with a handgun and began indiscriminately shooting. He shot five innocent people, killing three. I will never forget the carnage in that bar.

He then hijacked a cab and went to the Richmond RCMP Detachment and walked up to the front counter. Agar approached the counter and asked how he could help. He was shot in the chest at point blank range. Const. Wayne Hanniman was shot in the leg as he dove for cover when the shooting began. Though wounded, he managed to return fire and hit LeClair not fatally.

The gunman was then arrested outside by a responding officer. He did not give that corporal the chance to fire his weapon.

I stood outside the church in Richmond alongside thousands of police officers from all over North America, much like those who paid tribute to Figoski. I watched as Joyce Agar followed the coffin out of the church carried by six Mounties in Red Serge.

The grieving widow was dressed in black with a veil to hide her tears. Her shoulders shook in grief as she sobbed, not fooling anyone. Her young daughter clung to her right leg as she walked bravely to the hearse. It was heart rending and I can see it in my mind as clearly as if it was yesterday.



But Monday belonged to officer Figoski, a 22-year NYPD veteran. He could have retired two years ago but kept working in the service of his community. His four daughters were at his funeral to remember him and say goodbye. It was very poignant watching the tears stream down their faces as they stood shoulder to shoulder.

Police officers everywhere risk their lives in the service of their fellow citizens. Nothing underlines that service more than when one falls in the line of duty no matter where.

Prime Time Crime

Columns 2011