Thousands gather in New York for fallen NYPD officer’s funeral

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NEW YORK (CNN) — Rafael Ramos was an unusual cop.

He saw the streets of New York as his ministry.

In fact, he was just hours away from becoming a lay chaplain and graduating from a community-crisis chaplaincy program before he and fellow New York police Officer Wenjian Liu were gunned down in their patrol car Saturday in Brooklyn.

The gunman in the two officers’ killing, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, was found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds at a subway station immediately after the slayings.

Services for Liu are pending. On Friday, a police honor guard took Ramos’ casket into Christ Tabernacle in Glendale, New York, where an afternoon wake was being held. The visitation will be followed by a memorial service at 7 p.m. ET and a funeral service Saturday morning.

Some 25,000 police officers from around the country are expected to attend the funeral, according to the New York Police Department. JetBlue told CNN it has arranged for approximately 670 law enforcement officers to travel to New York for free.

Speakers at the funeral will include Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Bill De Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton.

Ramos, 40, enjoyed the spiritual dimension to life and work.

“He told me that his job even with the NYPD, he felt he was doing God’s work,” the Rev. Marcos Miranda, president of the New York State Chaplain Task Force, told Arise America on YouTube.

“He felt that he was protecting and serving his community and that was a sort of a ministry for him. And I totally agreed with him,” Marcos said. “He said this type of ministry, the chaplaincy, he could see himself doing this in the future as a full-time ministry after he retired from the NYPD.”

Marcos heads an organization that runs the 10-week course for lay chaplaincy, which Ramos completed, the minister said.

Widow and two sons

Ramos always carried a smile, Marcos said.

“He had the kindest eyes you could see. They radiated kindness and compassion,” Marcos said.

Ramos leaves a wife, Maritza, whom he married in 1993, and two sons, Justin and Jaden, said the Rev. Adam Durso, executive pastor of Christ Tabernacle, which Ramos attended for nearly 14 years.

To his close friends and even to his family, Ramos often went by Ralph, not Rafael.

“Ralph was definitely a family man. He always talked about his kids and how well they were doing athletically and academically,” Durso said.

A son’s farewell

Ramos’ son Jaden recounted on his Facebook page how “I had to say bye to my father” after the shooting.

“(H)e was the best father I could ask for. It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. I will always love you and I will never forget you. RIP Dad,” Jaden wrote.

An usher to all

On his Facebook page, Ramos spoke of his faith and noted that he studied at Faith Evangelical College and Seminary in Tacoma, Washington, which also offers online courses.

Ramos posted this quote as the cover photo at the top of his Facebook page: “If your way isn’t working, try God’s way.”

Ramos was active in his church.

He served as an usher and as part of the church’s marriage ministry and life group ministry, Durso said.

“When his team was scheduled to serve, we never worried about whether Ralph would be there with his team to help. He was a humble man and was willing to help at any capacity, helping people to their seats, moms with their baby carriages or the elderly in and out of our elevator,” Durso said in a statement.

CNN’s Camille Cava and Miguel Marquez reported from New York, and Michael Martinez wrote and reported from Los Angeles.