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Father of slain N.Y. officer had one request for chaplain in ER: To pray for safety

Fallen Officer Michael Jensen’s father asked that the chaplain pray for his son’s colleagues who came to his aid and who will have to go out and do their job despite their grief


Lt. Michael Hoosock (left), of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, and Syracuse Police Officer Michael Jensen were fatally shot on Sunday, April 14, 2024 in Salina.

Provided photograph/TNS

By Marnie Eisenstadt

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Lateef Johnson-Kinsey thought the first text Sunday night was a mistake: a Syracuse police officer down in Liverpool.

It didn’t make sense, but he started to put his shoes on anyway. Someone was hurt and their families would be worried.

Then a second text: another officer down.

He was already on his way to the emergency room at Upstate University Hospital. The drive was seven minutes, but new details kept dinging on his phone. Each fact was worse than the last.

By the time the volunteer police department chaplain arrived, he knew how bad it was: A young city police officer and a long-time lieutenant in the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office were both dead. The man police say killed them was also dead.

All three of them were inside the ER.

Outside, a sea of blue began to assemble. Men and women who spent their lives protecting others were crying. Johnson-Kinsey said he stopped to hug them, to pray, to listen. Some had been at the scene and saw their colleagues die on what at first seemed to be a routine call.

Inside the ER, officers filled the hallway, too.

Syracuse police officers stood together by the curtained-off room where Syracuse Officer Michael Jensen’s body lay. They held onto each other as they cried, Johnson-Kinsey said.

Sheriff’s deputies stood guard by Lt. Michael Hoosock’s body, holding each other up.

The body of Christopher Murphy, the suspect police say opened fire on the officers, was in that same ER.

There were dozens of officers inside, but there was so much quiet, Johnson-Kinsey said.

“What can you say besides, if you need a prayer, if you need me, I’m right here,” Johnson-Kinsey said. “I’m here.”

Johnson-Kinsey’s path to the ER is well-worn, but often from a different angle. He is the director of the Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence and a pastor at Well of Hope Church.

He comes when people are shot on purpose and caught in the crossfire. He’s held mothers who’ve lost their babies to bullets. He’s begged rival gangs to choose anything but retaliation. But he’s never seen anything like Sunday night.

It just doesn’t happen in Syracuse. Wallie Howard was the last officer shot and killed in Syracuse; that was more than 30 years ago.

Pastor Daren Jaime, the police department’s head chaplain, also sped to the hospital minutes after the 911 call. He had just returned home from leading a service at Hendricks Chapel. Jaime also is a pastor at People’s AME Zion Church.

Jaime and Johnson-Kinsey both remembered Jensen from when he graduated the academy two years ago. He was ambitious and hardworking, full of potential.

In the hours after his son died, Jensen’s father had one request, Jaime said. It was not for himself, but for his son’s brothers and sisters in blue.

Jensen’s father wanted to make sure that the chaplain prayed with and for his son’s colleagues who came to his aid, who watched him die, and who will have to go out and do their job despite their grief.

“He wanted to pray for their safety,” Jaime said.

As the medical examiner’s office prepared to take the officers’ bodies to the crime lab, Jaime offered his prayer to the men and women who waited.

He prayed for the slain officers, for their families and then the grieving father’s request: We pray for the remaining officers. They still have a job to do. We pray for them to have peace, protection and safety.

When he prayed, a line of more than 100 officers stood silently, shoulder to shoulder. Their car lights flashed, noiselessly. Together.

They were one continuous line. Some in blue uniform, some in the shorts they were wearing when the call came in. Their eyes were red.

There were no words.

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