Two murdered NYPD auxiliary police officers will have their names added to police memorials in New York City and Washington, authorities said Wednesday.
Auxiliary officers Eugene Marshalik, 19 and Nicholas Pekearo, 28, were killed trying to stop a gunman on a Greenwich Village rampage in March 2007.
"Officers Marshalik and Pekearo were heroes in every sense of the word and deserve to be recognized as such," Sen. Charles Schumer said. "These honors are the least we can do to commemorate the sacrifice they made to keep our city safe."
The names of the two volunteers are to be added to the NYPD Wall at Police Headquarters on May 7 and to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington on May 15, he said.
"It's only fitting that their names be memorialized at Police Headquarters, just as the Justice Department must recognize that their families be awarded the compensation owed them," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
The two trained volunteers, gunned down in uniform while on patrol, will also receive posthumous medals in New York City on June 6.
"It means a lot to us," said Pekearo's mother, Iola Latman. "They did such a brave, courageous act. And both of them were such good, young men with bright futures."
The recognition also strengthened Schumer and Kelly's case to have the families of both volunteers receive federal death benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefit program.
The U.S. Department of Justice said the two officers did not qualify for the $300,000 death benefit because they were not police officers.
Kelly and Schumer said the benefit program was designed to cover volunteers killed in the line of duty. Schumer appealed the decision directly to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and hoped to get the decision overturned by the time the two auxiliary officers are honored.
The union for auxiliary police officers says new members have been forced to wear used bulletproof vests, leaving them vulnerable on city streets.
The so-called loaner vests, the union charges, aren't individually fitted to each auxiliary cop. That could create a deadly gap in a vest's coverage, potentially allowing a bullet to get through.
"A T-shirt will help you better than an old bulletproof vest that doesn't fit," said William Rivera, founder of the Auxiliary Supervisors Benevolent Association.
The issue of properly outfitting the city's auxiliary police officers was thrust into the spotlight after two auxiliary cops, Eugene Marshalik and Nicholas Pekearo, were shot to death in Greenwich Village in 2007.
Marshalik, 19, was shot in the head. Pekearo, who was wearing a vest he bought on eBay, was shot in the back. The vest stopped only one of the six bullets fired by maniacal playwright David Garvin.
Less than two weeks after the unarmed volunteers were killed, Mayor Bloomberg vowed to provide bulletproof vests to all 4,500 auxiliary cops. The first of the Level 3-A extra coverage vests were issued the following year. NYPD officers get the same vests and are individually fitted.
Union officials say after the initial complement of vests in February 2008, hundreds of new volunteers have received the sometimes ill-fitting loaner vests.
Deputy Inspector Kim Royster, an NYPD spokeswoman, acknowledged that new members of the auxiliary force are no longer getting new vests.
"All auxiliary officers wear vests while out on patrol," Royster said. "If they don't have a vest assigned to them, they must wear a loaner vest."
A police source said each of the vests costs about $580 and that the NYPD hoped to one day return to issuing new vests to auxiliary cops. No timetable has been set.
Each day without a change in policy is a day too long, said Pekearo's mom, Iola Latman.
"They should all have brand new vests that fit them properly," she told the Daily News Wednesday. "Losing my son like that is dramatically sad."With Kerry Wills