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Trump attends wake of slain New York officer, calls for ‘law and order,’ to show contrast with Biden

Published: March 28, 2024, 12:55pm

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Donald Trump attended Thursday’s wake of a New York City police officer gunned down in the line of duty and called for “law and order,” as part of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s attempt to show a contrast with President Joe Biden and focus on crime as part of his third White House campaign.

The visitation for Officer Jonathan Diller, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Monday, was held in suburban Massapequa on Long Island. Police said the 31-year-old Diller was shot below his bulletproof vest while approaching an illegally parked car in Queens.

Diller, who was married and had a 1-year-old son, was rushed to a hospital, where he died.

Trump’s visit came as Biden was also in New York for a previously scheduled fundraiser with Democratic ex-presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Trump has accused Biden of lacking toughness and his campaign sought to contrast his visit with Biden’s fundraiser.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, noted Trump’s visit and said, “Meanwhile, the Three Stooges — Biden, Obama, and Clinton — will be at a glitzy fundraiser in the city with their elitist, out-of-touch celebrity benefactors.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the president has spoken with New York City’s mayor, but she said she didn’t have any “private communications to share” when asked if Biden had spoken to the family of the officer who was killed. Jean-Pierre said the administration’s hearts go out to the officer’s family.

Speaking aboard Air Force One, she said Biden has supported law enforcement throughout his entire career and took a dig at Trump’s record. “Violent crime surged under the previous administration,” Jean-Pierre said. “The Biden-Harris administration have done the polar opposite, taking decisive action from the very beginning to fund the police and achieving a historic reduction in crime.”

After visiting in the funeral home with Diller’s family, Trump spoke outside to news reporters with about a dozen local police officers, half in patrol uniforms, half in tactical gear, forming as a backdrop behind him. One officer standing in front held his rifle across his chest.

Trump, holding an umbrella, called Diller’s killing “such a sad, sad event, such a horrible thing.”

“The police are the greatest people we have. There’s nothing and there’s nobody like them. And this should never happen,” Trump said.

He spoke about Diller’s wife and young son, saying he “doesn’t know how his life has been changed.”

“We have to get back to law and order. We have to do a lot of things differently. This is not working. This is happening too often,” Trump said.

After his brief remarks, he repeated himself as he walked away toward his motorcade and added: “We’ve got to toughen it up.”

He did not elaborate.

Trump has deplored crime in heavily Democratic cities, called for shoplifters to be shot immediately and wants to immunize police officers from lawsuits for potential misconduct. But he’s also demonized local prosecutors, the FBI and the Department of Justice over the criminal prosecutions he faces and the investigation while he was president into his first campaign’s interactions with Russia.

He has also embraced those imprisoned for their roles on the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, when a mob of his angry supporters overran police lines and Capitol and local police officers were attacked and beaten.

Massapequa and the surrounding South Shore towns have long been a popular destination for city police officers and firefighters looking to set down roots on Long Island. The road leading to the funeral home was painted with a thin blue line, a symbol used as a sign of police solidarity, and the road was flanked by American flags and American flags with a thin blue line.

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Parked nearby were two pickup trucks with pro-Trump decals and flags bearing his “Make America Great Again” slogan. Dozens of supporters wearing Trump paraphernalia stood nearby in pouring rain.

Though Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York, this area is a heavily Republican part of Long Island that Trump won in the 2020 presidential election.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, accompanied Trump and told reporters it was “a tremendous comfort to the family” to have Trump visit.

The former president and his supporters sought a similar split screen with Biden earlier this month as they went after the president over crime and illegal immigration while both were campaigning in Georgia. Trump during his visit to the state met with the family of slain nursing student Laken Riley. An immigrant from Venezuela who entered the U.S. illegally is charged with her death.

Trump posted about Diller’s death on his social media network Tuesday, offering prayers to Diller’s family and appreciation for law enforcement. He also called the shooter a “thug” and noted that police said the shooter had numerous prior arrests, declaring that he “NEVER should have been let back out on the streets.”

On Thursday, prosecutors in Queens charged the alleged shooter, who is in police custody, with first degree murder and other charges.

Diller was the first New York City police officer killed in the line of duty in two years.

The previous line-of-duty deaths were the fatal shootings of two New York City police officers, and the day after the second funeral, Biden visited the police department’s headquarters and spoke to officers and top brass.

Biden has pledged that the federal government will work more closely with police to combat gun violence and crack down on illegal guns.

New FBI statistics related earlier this month showed that overall violent crime in the U.S. dropped again last year, continuing a downward trend after a pandemic-era spike. The FBI data found murders dropped 13% in the last three months of 2023 compared with the same period the year before, and violent crime overall was down 6%.

The FBI’s report was in line with the findings of the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice, which found that homicides were down an average of 10% from the year before in a survey of 32 cities, though it found violent crime still remained higher than before the coronavirus pandemic in many cities.