Liu’s death marks the first time a Chinese-American NYPD officer has been killed in the line of duty. All along the funeral procession route, which stretched from 11th Avenue to 18th Avenue, Chinese-American onlookers pressed up against metal police barricades set up along the curb, straining to take photos and video as police officers filed into formation along 65th Street. A contingent of more than 100 ethnic Asian officers and about 20 Asian-Canadian Toronto constables, led the march toward the funeral home.
For many in the crowd, it was a proud moment.
“First and foremost, Liu is Chinese like us,” Yaoxun Liu, an immigrant from Shanghai who traveled in from New Jersey along with 70 other Chinese-Americans to attend the funeral, said in Mandarin. “He was violently killed serving the community. Even though we don’t know him, we came from nearby to show support.”
Ruby Chan, of College Point, Queens, said she waited in line for two hours to hand an envelope of money to the family, a common gesture at memorials in Chinese culture.
“I’m from Hong Kong and I feel very badly for them,” she said. “It’s not much, but he was their only son and I was worried about his parents.”
Guan Zi Yuan, 76, of Chinatown, hung a pair of banners with Chinese calligraphy and English writing on a boarded-up former bagel shop across from the funeral home.
In English, it read: “To Mr. Wen Jian Joe Liu, to be remembered forever by posterity. Immortal.”
The eulogies at Sunday’s service gave a more complete picture of Liu’s life than before, painting a portrait of the newlywed and only son as a devoted family man and a dutiful cop. He was the teenager who ended his playground basketball games early to shop for groceries for his parents. He was the man who gave up his favorite sticker of the Statute of Liberty to his 4-year-old cousin that he got when he first arrived in America. He was the officer who responded to a call of an elderly man who had fallen in his home and ended up staying longer than he had to because the Vietnam veteran needed someone who would listen.
“But to me, he is my soulmate,” said Liu’s widow, Peixia Chen. “Wenjian is an incredible husband, son, co-worker and friend. My best friend. But he is much more.”
NYPD Officer Wenjian Liu Wife’s Pei Xia Chen Emotional Speech
Many of the Asian-American police officers at Liu’s funeral said being a cop is not just about enforcing the law, but about making a difference in the communities where they serve. Detective Ron Bongat, a Philippine immigrant and 15-year veteran of the Oak Park Police Department near Chicago, became a police officer for that very reason.
“I got tired of complaining about crime, so I thought I’d do something about it,” he said.
In recent years, a growing number of Asian-Americans has joined the ranks of the NYPD. As of November, there were 2,144 Asian-American police officers, compared to 1,597 in January 2010, said Sgt. Carlos Nieves, a spokesman for the department.