An NYPD officer slain in the line of duty last week is being remembered as "a son, brother, a mentor and ultimately, a hero" by thousands of family, friends and law enforcement officers who gathered from across the country to mourn him at a funeral in Queens.
Officer Randolph Holder was to be laid to rest in his native Guyana following Wednesday's funeral at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, where a sea of mourners streamed past his golden casket, topped with a bouquet of red roses, as they entered the church.
Many gripped a funeral program bearing Randolph's picture that called him "a humble man that only the kindest words can describe" and the "go-to guy anytime someone was in need" -- a man known for his booming, contagious laughter, his quick wit and his effervescent smile.
"We know our city lost a remarkable man, a man who made us better by his presence," Mayor de Blasio said at the funeral service. "This was a man who lived life so fully and gave so much to so many. He was not about himself. Officer Randolph Holder was dedicated to others, to his family and to all the people of this city -- he was dedicated to making a difference in their lives."
The five-year veteran was killed on Oct. 20 after being shot in the head in East Harlem. He and his partner had been chasing a man after responding to a call of shots fired and a bicycle stolen at gunpoint. Authorities allege the suspect hopped off the stolen bicycle and shot Holder in the head.
Family members said Holder always wanted to be a policeman, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who served as officers in Guyana. Holder joined the NYPD in 2010 and was assigned to a unit that patrolled the city's public housing complexes.
He leaves behind his fiancee, Maryiane Muhammad, father and stepmother, two brothers, a sister and many extended family members.
Muhammed struggled to speak through tears as she stood at a podium, flanked by two women providing her support. There, she told mourners she had experienced much loss in her life, but it was through her relationship with Holder that she learned a different word: courage.
"Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you and to have strength in the face of pain or grief. To simply wear the uniform of an officer is an act of courage. You have chosen to be both target and hero," Muhammed said. "It could be argued that to be a loved one of an officer we choose the same fate -- but less choose to be heroes."
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Holder and his partner walked into the path of danger, knowing that keeping people safe was more important than their own safety.
"It's what we do. It's what they did," Bratton said. "He wanted to be a cop. His reward was a life that mattered every day -- a life of significance."
Bratton posthumously promoted Holder to first-grade detective, awarding him the shield number his father, who inspired him to be part of the force, wore as a police officer in Guyana.
"When you're willing to risk everything, sometimes it will cost you everything," Bratton said. "It's what we do."
Bratton also read aloud a letter Holder wrote as a police recruit on why he became a police officer.
De Blasio said Holder sought to be a role model to his own family and embraced the opportunity to be a leader for the city's youth. He wanted to take on that responsibility, de Blasio said.
"Through his teachings, his words, his actions he showed young people what discipline and hard work can achieve and he showed them that if you believe in something it can become possible," the mayor said. "Officer Holder loved the people he served and they loved him back."
Hundreds of fellow officers and sympathizers gathered Tuesday afternoon for Holder's wake, some waiting in line for hours, for a chance to offer their condolences and console his family. De Blasio, Bratton, former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the family of slain police officer Wenjian Liu were among them.
The suspect in Holder's death, 30-year-old Tyrone Howard, has been charged with murder and robbery. A grand jury has indicted him, but the charges won't be announced until a state Supreme Court arraignment on Nov. 24. His attorney has said there are missing details in the case.