WEST VILLAGE — Longtime Morton Street resident Iola Latman talked on the phone with her son, Nicholas Pekearo, every day. His humor, kindness and intelligence were a joy each time, she said.
"He was just a terrific son," Latman, 71, said Tuesday afternoon in her apartment, which is full of photographs of him.
Pekearo's life was cut short at age 28, five years ago on Wednesday, when a gunman opened fire on the unarmed auxiliary police officer and his partner, Eugene Marshalik, at Sullivan and Bleecker streets.
The shootings shocked Greenwich Village residents and the city.
Gunman David Garvin walked into the now-closed De Marco's Pizzeria and Restaurant on West Houston Street at MacDougal Street around 9:30 p.m. on March 14, 2007. He fired more than 50 shots at bartender Alfredo Romero, killing him.
Marshalik and Pekearo chased Garvin as he reloaded, but he turned and fired at the volunteer officers, killing both. Soon after, 6th Precinct police shot and killed Garvin, who was later found to have been carrying more than 100 rounds of ammunition, according to media reports at the time.
On the fifth anniversary of the deaths of the auxiliary officers, the families of Pekearo and Marshalik, who was 19, are reflecting on the young men's lives.
Pekearo's older brother, Chris Latman, said the fifth anniversary of the death of his brother, who he described as funny and giving, is no easier than the first.
"I don't like the saying 'time heals all wounds,'" said Latman, 46. "Time doesn't solve anything, you're just able to put some walls around it."
Eugene Marshalik's father, Boris, said he still thinks about his son, who was an NYU student, every day.
"It doesn't get any easier. It's never easier, every year when March is coming," the Brooklyn pediatrician and Long Island resident said.
Iola Latman, a retired retail manager, said she clings to happy memories of Pekearo in an attempt to keep her spirits up.
"I try to think about all the good times we had together," she said about the young writer, whose thriller "The Wolfman" was published posthumously.
"When I think of my Nick, I think of the writer's life. It would've been a beautiful life," she said.
The 6th Precinct will hold a ceremony in honor of Marshalik and Pekearo Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Bleecker and Sullivan streets, where the pair was gunned down.
Marshalik's father said he visits the corner, which is marked with memorial street signs bearing the auxiliary officers' names, every few months.
"This is the place he loved and the place he gave his life for," he said. "We can feel his spirit there."
The officers' deaths spurred changes in how the NYPD protects auxiliary officers, who wear uniforms that look similar to standard police uniforms but do not carry firearms, Auxiliary Police Benevolent Association president John Hyland said.
Every auxiliary officer is now issued with and required to wear a bullet-resistant vest. In the next month, training of the officers will be extended by two weeks, from 45 to 55 hours total, with an emphasis on tactics.
But the APBA is still pushing for state legislation that would make assault of an auxiliary officer a felony, he said.
"State legislation would give [auxiliary officers] protection they don't have now," Hyland said.
Boris Marshalik said he was honored that police and their backers were working to keep his son's memory alive.
"I am really happy that people remember my son, even though five years have passed," he said.
Pekearo's memory lives on for his niece, whom he never met, his brother Chris Latman said. The 22-month-old toddler has come to recognize her "Uncle Nick" in photos.
"She points and says 'Nick!'" Latman said.
"She knows him and she'll grow up knowing him."