WORCESTER – City and law enforcement officials from across central Massachusetts and the state escorted the body of Worcester Police Officer Enmanuel “Manny” Familia to the State Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – Central / Western Regional Facility in Westfield on Saturday morning.
Familia died Friday in Green Hill Pond trying to save a drowning teenager who also lost his life.
The 14-year-old boy reportedly tried to swim across the pond when he became desperate and Familia stepped in and tried to save him and two other teenagers.
Authorities have not publicly identified the young victim.
Familia, 38, was a member of the Worcester Police Department for five years.
Dedicated family man, colleague
Friends and colleagues remembered Familia, who was dedicated to his family, job, and community.
“Selfless: He was just a humble spirit,” said Woodrow Adams Jr., a Familia friend since her time at Doherty High School, on Saturday. “If you sacrifice your life and risk everything to save someone else, there is no other word for it, that is a hero.”
And this hero did it with a smile.
“That kid always smiled,” Worcester Police Officer Diaz told the crowd at a vigil on Friday night. Diaz refused to give his first name.
“He is the role model of a police officer. A cop of a cop. He would do anything for everyone. “
Familia leaves behind his wife Jennifer, his daughter Jayla (17), his son Jovan (13) and his parents.
“If it weren’t for them, I don’t know what I would do at this point,” Familia said in a video from his senior year 2016 Worcester Police Academy video of his wife and children. “You motivated me; You have been with me for the past six months, and my wife – thank you for looking after me day in and day out. They made my lunch, breakfast, dinner, everything. So in reality you are the real MVP. “
The deaths have plunged Worcester – a city no stranger to tragedy with first responders – into grief.
“The Worcester Police Department has lost a brother, a friend and a partner,” said Police Chief Steve M. Sargent at a press conference outside headquarters on Friday evening.
The flag waved on half the staff, and a huge contingent of officers with black stripes over their badges gathered behind the chief in support.
“The city of Worcester has lost a hero,” said Sargent.
Officer Daniel Gilbert called Familia “an honor for the department”.
Law enforcement agencies across the state, state and federal officials, and city institutions sent condolences to the Worcester Police Department on social media.
Flags ordered at half mast
City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. ordered on Saturday that flags be hoisted half-staff in all city buildings and public places until further notice. Governor Charlie Baker ordered that all American and Commonwealth flags should also be hoisted on half the staff in all state buildings.
At a vigil outside St. Vincent Hospital on Friday, Pastor Moses Z. Makor led a crowd of about 100 parishioners, officials and nurses on strike in hymns and prayers.
“All is not lost,” said Makor. “[Officer Familia’s] Legacy will live by the work it has done. His work on this earth is not in vain. His life is not in vain. “
Meanwhile, police from across the state gathered Saturday morning to escort Familia’s body to the state coroner’s office in Westfield.
It was a fitting tribute to someone known for their dedication to others.
“That’s the kind of person Manny was; someone who gives his or her life for someone else’s child,” Mayor Joseph M. Petty said at the news conference on Friday.
“In wanting to save the children, he sacrificed his life to save the young men out there,” said Adams. “I’m pretty sure that’s what he imagined as his kid.”
Adams, a court clerk, said Familia was working with him to improve links between law enforcement and the Worcester community.
Familia participated in charity events that Adams organized, coached youth basketball in St. Peter’s Parish, and more, Adams said.
“We planned to do different things to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community,” said Adams. “He was an open-minded person: loved life, loved his family, loved his wife and two children. He was just a good guy all round. “
A GoFundMe account was set up to raise funds for Familia’s family.