Thousands came out Friday to pay their last respects to a veteran Springfield Massachusetts police officer who was shot dead earlier this week after responding to a domestic dispute.. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Springfield Police Officer Kevin Ambrose was remembered for his fun loving spirit, his sense of humor, athletic prowess and his dedication to family, friends and the citizens of Springfield, whom he served for 36 years.
Speaking at the funeral mass, Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchet said Ambrose name will be spoken with reverence by future generations of police officers and his spirit will be with every cop who hits the streets.
Police say Ambrose, who was 55, died a hero as he tried to protect a woman and her infant daughter from her estranged boyfriend. The gunman, a New York City Corrections Officer, shot Ambrose twice, critically wounded the woman and then took his own life with a gunshot to the chest.
Ambrose was the first Springfield police officer to die in the line of duty in 27 years. A former partner, now retired Springfield police officer Ray Muise said as young policemen they thought themselves to be invulnerable, but they did talk about …what if?
Muise said Ambrose was one of the toughest officers he’d ever worked with, but had the ability thanks to his sense of humor to be able to quickly defuse a tense situation. Commissioner Fitchet said Ambrose was tough, but never mean.
Rev. Joseph Soranno, the Ambrose family’s parish priest, said Ambrose worked hard to provide a good life for his family, his wife of 30 years, their two children and 4 year old granddaughter, whom he was especially proud of.
St. Catherine of Siena Church was packed with 900 mourners, including family, friends, Springfield Police officers and dignitaries including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, US Senator Scott Brown, Congressman Richard Neal and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
The audio of the hour-long service was played on loudspeakers for a large crowd that gathered outside the church.
A solemn procession of Springfield police, and honor guards from several police departments escorted the hearse from the church to a cemetery less than a mile away. Leading the way was the police cruiser Ambrose was driving when he answered what turned out to be his final call. A black sash was draped on the driver’s side door. A poster with Ambrose’s badge number 7, with a black bar across it, was displayed in the rear window.