Borough auxiliaries are applauding the United States Department of Justice’s decision to give the families of NYPD Auxiliaries Eugene Marshalik, 19, and Nicholas Pekearo, 28, $300,000 in death benefits.
The decision is a reversal of their earlier decision that the families of the two volunteers could not receive death benefits because they weren’t peace officers.
“We’re happy that the families are getting what they deserve,” said Chief Tony Christo, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South’s auxiliary patrol. “[The decision] also shows an acknowledgment of what the auxiliaries do — we care about our community and our city and we are going to continue to do the best job we can.”
Following an appeal spearheaded by Marshalik and Pekearo’s families, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Brooklyn U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, the Department of Justice authorized the death benefits after “New evidence showed that the officers were killed by the gunman specifically because he thought they were regular police officers.”
Last year Marshalik, 19, a resident of Midwood, and Pekearo, 28, were in uniform when they were shot and killed by crazed gunman David Garvin as they helped patrol Greenwich Village, officials said.
Their families received death benefits from the city, but were denied federal death benefits because of their non-peace officer status.
During the appeal hearing, Kelly said that according to accounts from the night of their death, an eyewitness ran up to Marshalik and Pekearo after witnessing Garvin shoot someone in a nearby pizza shop, believing that they were actual police officers, not volunteer cops.
“The eyewitness approached two uniformed officers and alerted them to the presence of the gunman,” said Kelly. “We now know that those uniformed officers were Officers Marshalik and Pekearo who were heading in the direction of the pizzeria, but were still two blocks away. This eyewitness, as well as numerous others who saw pieces of the incident unfold, believed that Officers Marshalik and Pekearo were sworn NYPD officers and did not distinguish them as Auxiliary Police Officers nor, we think, did the gunman.”
Federal officials said that this witness testimony, coupled with Kelly’s plea helped sway their decision.
“[Marshalik and Pekearo] were shot in cold blood, in their auxiliary police officer uniforms, specifically because of their status as officers of the New York City Police,” a Department of Justice spokesperson said.
“This decision acknowledged what I and every other New Yorker already knew: that Auxiliary Police Officers Nicholas Pekearo and Eugene Marshalik were heroes, and they were killed in the line of duty as public safety officers,” said Schumer.