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Thousands mourn slain Rochester police officer

They came by the hundreds from across the state and beyond — police officers in ceremonial uniforms of blues, grays, greens, and blacks — and converged on a corner of downtown Rochester to say farewell to one of their own.

The line of them stretched for nearly a city block at the intersection of Broad Street and Exchange Boulevard outside Blue Cross Arena, stacked in rows at times 12-people deep.

There, they stood in stoic silence save for the thrumming of a snare drum and the buzz of a police drone overhead, and snapped to attention as the black hearse approaching from the south neared.

When it rolled quietly to a stop in front of them, they saluted in unison with white-gloved hands. Only the skirl of bagpipes cut the quiet when the back door of the hearse opened.

Inside the hearse was the flag-draped coffin of Rochester Officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz, who was shot and killed on July 21 while conducting surveillance in plainclothes.

Officers came from nearby towns and villages, and from neighboring counties and states. A tent erected by the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association had refreshments at the ready on what was a scorching August morning.

The officers filed into the arena in single file, as though they had rehearsed the pomp and circumstance of the spectacle, where they joined dignitaries and friends and relatives of Mazurkiewicz.

Estimates of the number of people who attended the funeral ranged from 2,000 to 4,000.

Among the 11 people who eulogized Mazurkiewicz, 54, over the course of more than two hours were his four children, friends, and colleagues. Through their words, a portrait emerged of a man who was fiercely dedicated to his family and his profession in equal measure.

His youngest daughter, Bryce Mazurkiewicz, fought back tears as she told of her father taking her to her softball games and having dinner waiting for her when she returned home from a shift at Strong Memorial Hospital, where she is training to be a nurse.

“He loved when he had a house full of people and mouths to feed,” she said. “We always joked that we made up our own occasions and our own celebrations so we could have family time together. Family dinners and bonfires, like clockwork. That was our thing.”

Since his death, she said, she and her family have lit a backyard bonfire every night in his memory and shared a rum and Diet Coke, which was her father’s drink of choice. Mazurkiewicz lived in Fairport.

“My dad has been called a hero by many since being killed…,” she said. “But he’s always been a hero to my mom, my siblings and myself. He’s always gone above and beyond not only for me and my family, but for all of you in Rochester.”

Mazurkiewicz was a highly-decorated, 29-year veteran of the Rochester Police Department, having begun his career as a patrol officer in 1993 after five years as a Monroe County Jail deputy. He wore Badge No. 557.

He was shot and killed while conducting surveillance for the department’s tactical unit. He was sitting in a parked, unmarked car with his partner, Officer Sino Seng, on Baumann Street when a gunman fired at least 16 rounds at the vehicle around 9:20 p.m.

Mazurkiewicz was hit twice in the body and was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries. Seng was shot in the leg and was treated and released from Rochester General Hospital. The gunfire also hit a 15-year-old girl, who was treated for injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Seng was given a standing ovation at the ceremony and hailed a “hero.” After Seng and Mazurkiewicz were shot, officers said, Seng pulled Mazurkiewicz out of the vehicle and returned fire at the suspect.

The suspect, Kelvin Vickers, 21, has been charged with second-degree murder in Mazurkiewicz’s death, as well as additional charges linked to the related shootings.

The officers who spoke during the funeral offered praise and admiration for the colleague they called “Maz.” They recalled learning how to be a father and an officer from him, and how he constantly sang around the office, particularly Christmas carols during the holiday season.

They reminisced on his doting over his grandchildren, who called him “pop pop,” and his “love language” of food.

Some had stern words for critics of police, calling them “irrelevant” to the officers like Mazurkiewicz and others who believe in what they are doing for a living.

One of the longest and most passionate eulogies of the funeral was delivered by Officer Paul Romano, who worked with Mazurkiewicz in the tactical unit. Romano told of how he was uncharacteristically off the night Mazurkiewicz was killed and how Seng took his seat in the car.

“I am so sorry, Sino. I’m sorry you have to carry this for the rest of your life,” Romano said.  “Never question yourself about what happened that night. You, my friend, did everything right.”

Romano said “getting evil people off the streets” was in the heart of Mazurkiewicz and that of other officers in the tactical unit.

“Tony and I loved coming to work knowing that we were out there looking not for the guy having a beer on the corner. We don’t care about them. Not for the kids smoking weed on the corner. We don’t care about them,” he said. “We’re going after the evil, the real evil in this city. The real evil that plagues our community. It’s what we believe we were meant to do. It’s what Maz faithfully did for 30 years.”

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