Thousands attend funeral for slain city police officer As mourners line streets, Schaefer pledges new action

September 22, 1992|By Melody Simmons and Joe Nawrozki | Melody Simmons and Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writers Staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

To the haunting strains of a lone bagpiper, thousands of police officers, dignitaries and average citizens attended funeral services in northwest Baltimore today for Officer Ira N. Weiner, who was fatally shot in the line of duty Saturday.

While many lined the sidewalks outside Sol Levinson & Bros. in the 6000 block of Reisterstown Road to mourn the loss of the 28-year-old officer, it was also time for some tough talk from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Mr. Schaefer, visibly emotional, said after the services he will appoint a five-member panel of attorneys to study the appeal process that convicted criminals use once they are imprisoned.

He also said he will look into the cases of the 10 prisoners sentenced to death "and review how long . . . what's held up the action." He indicated he is willing to sign execution warrants following that study.

"If we have a death penalty in instances like this, I have no feelings at all other than the death penalty," the governor said. Officer Weiner's assailant, a man said by his own aunt to be high on cocaine, was shot and killed by other officers.

When the services began inside the funeral home, two rabbis delivered eulogies for the fallen officer after Officer Weiner's work shift at the Western District filed by the flag-draped casket.

"This young man gave his life in the name of law and in the name of the victimized, terrorized people . . . he was committed to preserving social stability," said Rabbi Donald Berlin.

Rabbi Seymour Essrog, who delivered a statement from Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods, said "Officer Weiner was more than a police officer . . . he was a son.

"Through his actions he saved the lives of children," the rabbi said. "We believe, as did Ira, that through our action the world would be a safer place."

Following the service, a police honor guard followed by a bagpiper playing "Scotland the Brave" led the casket into the muggy morning.

The casket was carried to an hearse through a two-block-long corridor of police officers from virtually every federal, state, county and city law enforcement agency in Maryland. Other officers from New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia were in attendance.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called Officer Weiner's death a "tragedy for the entire community. Everyone is saddened but determined to help make this a safer city."

Before the hearse bearing Officer Weiner's body went to the Oheb Shalom Memorial Park on Berryman's Lane in Reisterstown, followed by a lengthy procession of police cruisers, citizens stood along the curb, offering their prayers and thoughts.

Some wept. One man saluted.

"I am Jewish," said Lee Graham, as he stood on a corner. "The officer is Jewish. It's certainly a mitzvah, a good deed, to go to a funeral."

Joe Cotton, a resident of northwest Baltimore, said, "I want to support the police. I consider him a 'tsadic', a saintly person because of the service that he and all the other police are doing for us."

Mike Brooks, an auto mechanic from a nearby garage, said he took time from work to "pay respects for the officer. That man put his life on the line and then lost it for something stupid."

The procession of the hearse and the police cruisers traveled the 10-mile route to the cemetery in a galaxy of blinking red and blue lights.

Once at Officer Weiner's final resting place, the family was seated while some final words were offered.

Then, the chilling sound of taps echoed through the air. The American flag was removed from the casket, folded into a crisp triangle and presented to Officer Weiner's mother.

Today's funeral came after a request yesterday from the city police officers' union that Mayor Schmoke "instill fear in criminals" by putting more officers on the street and pushing for use of the death penalty.

"You have to make criminals afraid for their lives. . . . At this point, they have no fear whatsoever of punishment," said Don W. Helms, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents 2,700 of Baltimore's 2,800 officers.

Mr. Helms said the shooting of Officer Weiner is indicative of a "continued deteriorating moral fiber of society."

Particularly, that fiber is deteriorating rapidly on the streets of Baltimore, he said yesterday, adding that police are becoming targets for criminals who aren't afraid of the law.

He also said the death of Officer Weiner might have been prevented if he had an officer immediately backing him up.

"It's hard to know for sure, but it probably would have saved him," Mr. Helms said.

"This department just doesn't have the money to operate. We're just trying to keep hubcaps on the wheels of the patrol cars and gas in the tanks," he said.

Officer Weiner died at 12:17 a.m. yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He never regained consciousness.

The officer, a 1982 graduate of Northwestern High School and a four-year veteran of the Western District, was shot in the back of the head after a struggle with a violent man inside a Mulberry Street rowhouse.

Officer Weiner grew up in Northwest Baltimore, raised by his mother and grandmother, his aunt said. His teen-age jobs as a newspaper delivery boy and a stock clerk at a Farm Fresh grocery store were a far cry from the violent streets of Baltimore, but "he always wanted to be a police officer," Ms. Romm said.

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