MERRICK – A line of police officers, most with glum expressions, wrapped around the side of the Merrick Fire Department's Empire Hose Company firehouse, all waiting their turn to pay their respects to Nassau County Police Officer Arthur "Artie" Lopez.
Scores of officers hugged and some cried as they waited outside the firehouse to enter the wake for Lopez, who was gunned down on Tuesday morning by alleged murderer Darrell Fuller. Near the lines of cars were two Nassau County Police vehicles, both renamed in honor of the fallen officer.
"He was the real deal," said Nassau County PBA President James Carver. "He lived it... being a cop. Just a look at his smile and you knew who he was."
Officers from near and far attended the wake – all in their formal uniforms, just as Lopez is currently dressed. Government officials, including Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Representative Peter King and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were also on hand to pay their respects to Lopez.
"We're making sure our guys get the help they need to get through this," said Carver, who noted the PBA and Police were offering peer counseling. "It's tough for a lot of us – we've all done that same car stop Artie did. We're relying on each other to get through it all."
With the funeral set for Saturday, Carver said he told family members to stay strong.
"As the days go on, his family is not as emotional," he noted. "They're comfortable surrounded by us [police force]. Tomorrow's going to be really tough though – and we're going to be there for them."
Lopez's funeral ceremony will be held at St. Christopher's Church in Baldwin at 12 noon.