HOWARD BEACH, N.Y. (PIX11) — Angelina Liu, 5, never knew her NYPD detective father, but on Thursday night she honored the doctors who made her life possible, even after the December 2014 assassination of her dad, Wenjian Liu, and his partner, Det. Rafael Ramos.
Wearing a white tutu skirt and pink sweater, Angelina skipped up to the podium at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach and handed plaques to Dr. Peter Schlegel and Dr. Pak Chung, of Weill Cornell Medical College.
Schlegel was the urology and reproductive medicine specialist who harvested Wenjian Liu’s sperm at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner on the morning after Liu was killed in his Brooklyn patrol car. Schlegel only had a short window of opportunity to perform the procedure.
“The sooner the better,” Schlegel told PIX11 News at the awards dinner Thursday. “Within 24 hours — the very next morning was the earliest time that we could get sperm-freezing opportunities set up.”
On Dec. 20, 2014, five days before Christmas, Liu and Ramos were finishing their day shift for the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn when a gunman who had taken a bus from Baltimore sprayed their patrol car with bullets.
Pei Xia Liu, known as Sanny, was married to the slain officer for three months when she was rushed by the NYPD’s Family Assistance Unit to Woodhull Hospital.
“We were newlyweds; all we talked about was having a family,” Pei Xia Liu recalled Thursday night. “When I was in the hospital, it came to my mind, ‘I want my husband’s children.'”
Pei Xia Liu said she asked the chief of the Family Assistance Unit if there was anyone who could harvest her slain husband’s sperm and he “made the contact.”
“This is the first time in NYPD history,” Pei Xia Liu said of the procedure that was performed on her husband. “It never happened before.”
The officer’s parents, Wentang Liu and Xiuyan Li, are Chinese immigrants who lost their only child in the shooting.
“That’s uniquely devastating for parents,” Schlegel observed, who added that it was rewarding “to make it possible to fulfill Wenjian Liu’s challenging situation.”
Angelina Liu was born on July 25, 2017, two and a half years after her father was killed.
Dr. Chung, the specialist who worked with Pei Xia Liu at Weill Cornell when she started taking rounds of painful shots to help the fertility process, saluted the widow’s determination and commitment.
“It was a very sad, difficult time for her,” Chung remembered. “We miraculously created Angelina. I get to see her grow, be so beautiful, smart, and active.”
Wenjian Liu’s widow said Angelina doesn’t just look like her father.
“She has his mannerisms,” she said with a smile.
Pei Xia Liu started the Detective Wenjian Liu Foundation to help families impacted by line-of-duty deaths heal with the assistance of companion dogs. The foundation held its second dinner Thursday night after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a two-year pause.
Pei Xia Liu said she was helped enormously by the black Labrador she adopted shortly after her husband was killed. She named him Liu.
“The companionship, the protection I received from the dog has changed my life,” Liu said.
Raising her little girl has brightened her life even more. The girl’s playroom is surrounded by tributes to her late father.
“I want my daughter to learn who her father was,” Pei Xia Liu said. “My daughter never met her father. Having a foundation is keeping his name alive.”