NEW YORK (PIX11) — Dominique Rivera, the young widow of 22-year-old Officer Jason Rivera, told another NYPD widow the story of their love, as she was busy planning his final tribute this week at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“They met in kindergarten, at 5 years old,” Carmen Suarez, who lost her NYPD husband, Ramon, in the September 11th terror attacks in 2001 said. “They went to school together — they were little kids playing.”
The couple went to school in the Washington Heights area, Suarez said. She paid her respects to Dominque Rivera, along with the officer’s mother and Rivera’s extended Dominican-American family, during a visit to the grieving mother’s home in upper Manhattan.
Dominique Rivera is the same age as her husband was — just 22 years old. The couple became boyfriend and girlfriend at 15, and then got married three months ago.
“That was her first love, her only love,” Suarez said of the young widow.
Suarez is a member of the NYPD widows’ group, Survivors of the Shield. President Kathy Vigiano, who lost her husband, Detective Joseph Vigiano, on 9/11, posted a fundraiser for Dominique Rivera on the organization’s Facebook page this week.
“Dominique Rivera lost her husband to a senseless act of violence … because he was a New York City Police Officer,” Vigiano wrote.
Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora were shot at close range inside a Harlem apartment Jan. 21 while responding to a domestic incident on West 135th Street. The chief of detectives said Lashawn McNeil, a convicted felon armed with a Glock 45, opened a bedroom door and fired at the young cops in a narrow hallway.
Officer Rivera was pronounced dead almost immediately at Harlem Hospital across the street; his partner, Officer Mora, was put on life support and died on Tuesday, after his organs were harvested for donation.
Suarez said it was very difficult to see the pain on the faces of Rivera’s widow and mother.
“A mother should never bury their child,” Suarez said.
Suarez shared with PIX11 News that she offered some advice to Officer Rivera’s widow: “Never let anyone tell you to move forward. Everything is at your own time.”
Survivors of the Shield said it is raising funds and will give 100% of donations to support Dominique and her financial needs.