Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I spent the evening Tuesday watching a steady stream of cops, both on duty and off duty, in and out of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, showing support to the family of Officer Dennis Guerra, in critical condition after he and his partner were both overcome with smoke while responding to a mattress fire in the 13th floor hallway of a Coney Island public housing apartment building. Transferred to Montefiore because of treatment the hospital offers for people suffering from extreme carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also at the hospital, folks like me. There to cover the story. Our presence, and a visit by Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton, adding to the atmosphere that a positive outcome was less likely.

It's not the kind of visit the cops want to make. And some of them might resent the large news media presence. But it's not the kind of story any of us really want to cover either. We don't want to have to witness the agony of the family. We don't want to be put in a position of crossing boundaries. Not giving the family enough space. These are the kinds of conversations reporters have while gathering outside the hospital waiting for some official word.

There are conversations, as well, as to what went through the mind of the 16-year-old boy who allegedly set the mattress on fire because he was "bored." A boy who mugged for the cameras when arrested. And questions as well as to why the cops don't have a set procedure for how to respond to high-rise fires.

But for now, the focus is less on that and more on the agony of the family members and of the cop family that always comes together at times like this.


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