© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Veteran officer shot to death in Rochester remembered

Max Schulte

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A police officer killed in an ambush as he investigated a murder was eulogized Monday at a funeral attended by hundreds of fellow officers, who recalled his dedication to the job with affection but voiced frustration that some people don’t appreciate the dangers.

Rochester Police Officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz, 54, died July 21 when a gunman approached his unmarked vehicle from behind and fired roughly 17 shots. His partner, Officer Sino Seng, was also wounded. A bullet struck a 15-year-old girl in a nearby house.

The killing happened on the same day that Rochester’s mayor declared a state of emergency over gun violence in the mid-sized city.

“To the social media tough guys, to all the anti-police activists, and to the self-righteous politicians, we are never going to stop doing what we do. You can say and do whatever you want. We are the balance to that evil,” Officer Paul Romano told mourners in the packed sports arena where the funeral was held.

Mazurkiewicz was a 29-year veteran of a police department that has been hit by crisis after crisis in recent years, all while dealing with a record number of homicides that have given it one of New York state’s highest murder rates.

Public protests roiled the city in 2020 after Daniel Prude, a Black man in the midst of a psychiatric episode, died after officers placed him in a hood and held him against the pavement.

The city’s police chief was later fired over the incident and a permanent chief was named just several weeks ago. Rochester’s mayor at the time, Lovely Warren, lost a primary race for re-election in 2021 and then resigned a month early as part of a plea deal on campaign finance and child-endangerment charges.

There was further scrutiny of the department after officers used pepper spray to subdue a crying 9-year-old Black girl in early 2021, and again just last month, when a police investigator handcuffed a Black emergency medical technician at a hospital after she bumped his car with the door of her ambulance while unloading a patient.

It is unclear whether any of that turmoil was known to the person who killed Mazurkiewicz.

He and Seng were part of the department’s plainclothes tactical unit and were investigating a murder in the neighborhood when they were attacked, police said.

The man charged in the slaying, Kelvin Vickers, was found hiding in the crawl space of a vacant house about an hour after the shooting. Vickers, who was recently released from prison in Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

Prosecutors haven’t offered a possible motive for the shooting.

Mazurkiewicz is survived by his wife of 28 years and four children.

“Tony was a police officer through and through. He was tough, rule-following, stoic and there was really truly little that rattled him,” said his daughter Brooks Balcer. “He was the absolute hardest worker, not just at work, but also at home.”