WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Police, neighbors and family members gathered Tuesday morning to honor the memory of two fallen police officers, who died at the height of the crack epidemic in New York City during the late 1980s.
Both young officers died within three hours of each other on Oct. 18, 1988, while on the job in Northern Manhattan.
Officer Michael Buczek was gunned down while investigating a group of suspected drug dealers in Washington Heights. He was 24 years old.
Earlier that night, Officer Chris Hoban was shot to death during an undercover drug investigation on West 105th Street. He was 26 years old.
The killings shook the police force and community at a time when the drug trade ravaged the West Side of Manhattan.
“They died serving and protecting the people of New York City,” said 34th Precinct Deputy Inspector Barry Buzzetti. “Their deaths sparked an outrage that later served to save an untold amount of lives.”
The annual memorial consisted of a short march to the Church of St. Elizabeth from P.S. 48, which is named in Buczek’s honor, a full mass and a performance by the NYPD Pipe and Drum band of the Emerald Society outside the church at the corner of Wadsworth Avenue.
Attendees at the memorial remembered the tough times, but focused on the families’ perseverance in dealing with the tragedies.
Buczek’s family created a foundation and the Michael Buczek Little League after his death, in the hopes of positively impacting the children of Washington Heights.
“My brother knew there were a lot more good people than bad here,” Buczek’s sister, Mary-Joe Buczek, said at the memorial.
Tuesday’s event was the first without Buczek’s father, Ted, a well-known and beloved figure in the Washington Heights community who spearheaded the Little League and foundation after his son’s death. He died late last year at 84 after a battle with prostate cancer.
Both families credited Ted for helping them move forward, despite their grief.
“He could have been bitter and sulked and got on his pity pot, but he didn’t do that and neither did my parents. They all worked to make something good come out of this,” said Martin Hoban, Chris Hoban's brother. “They are the true and tremendous heroes.”
Hoban’s family created a scholarship in their son’s name at his alma mater, Xaverian High School in Brooklyn.