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Slain NYPD Officer, Jonathan Diller, Remembered as a Friendly Neighbor

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In his three years as a New York City police officer, Jonathan Diller, 31, did not shy away from working tougher areas of southeast Queens near Kennedy International Airport.

Over his short but promising police career, he racked up scores of arrests and had already been decorated three times for “excellent police duty.”

And on the home front, a 40-minute drive east on Long Island, his life as a family man was also blooming. He and his wife, Stephanie, had moved into a modest colonial in Massapequa Park as newlyweds and last year had a son, Ryan.

Ryan’s baby teeth were just coming in, and last weekend, Officer Diller was pulling the toddler in a wagon on the front lawn, never prouder.

“He had his whole life ahead of him,” said a neighbor, Nancy Ferranola, who watched them playing.

But then came the encounter in Queens that cut short the life of the officer, husband and father.

Officer Diller was fatally shot in the line of duty on Monday evening while on patrol with a partner as part of the community response team in Far Rockaway.

They pulled up to an illegally parked car with two people inside at a bus stop on Mott Avenue, the police said.

Officer Diller ordered the man in the passenger seat to step out. The man refused, pulled out a gun and shot Officer Diller in the torso below his protective vest, Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban said at a news conference Monday night at Jamaica Hospital, where Officer Diller was pronounced dead.

Shortly before midnight, Officer Diller’s remains, shrouded in a Police Department flag, were borne by fellow officers out of the hospital into an ambulance as scores saluted.

“What started out as an everyday car stop instantly became a moment where so many lives would be turned upside down,” Officer Diller’s brother-in-law Jonathan McAuley wrote in a Facebook post.

Even after being shot, Officer Diller “still stayed in the fight”: Despite being mortally wounded, he was able to disarm the gunman, the department’s chief of detectives, Joseph Kenny, told reporters Monday night.

Officer Diller’s partner, Officer Veckash Khedna, returned fire, striking the gunman, Guy Rivera, 34, who survived and was also taken to Jamaica Hospital, the police said.

Police officials said Mr. Rivera has 21 prior arrests, including for first-degree robbery and selling drugs to an undercover police officer. He was paroled in 2021.

“You were a good man and a great father whose shoes can never be filled,” wrote Mr. McAuley, also a New York City police officer. “I swear to you that I will look after your son as if he were my own.”

There is a vigil planned for Wednesday evening in Brady Park near the officer’s home, and his wake will be held on Thursday and Friday, with a funeral on Saturday morning.

Since he joined the department in February 2021, Officer Diller’s life on a quiet block in a neighborhood that is home to many active and retired police officers had stood in contrast to his job.

Nick Rocha, 75, who lives a few houses down, said he often saw Officer Diller come and go in a marked police cruiser and in uniform.

“There’s a lot of service people in this community,” said Carol Chang, 66, who was walking her dog on Tuesday in the neighborhood. “When someone doesn’t come home, it’s heart- wrenching.”

At the officer’s home, which was guarded by police officers, a steady stream of friends and relatives arrived, hugged each other and stood stricken on the front lawn.

Some neighbors described Mr. Diller as coming from a “cop family.” Other simply knew him as Jon, a low-key guy who could be counted on to clear the snow off a neighbor’s driveway.

In an act of solidarity, one of those neighbors, Ms. Ferranola, was draping blue bunting along the front steps of houses on Officer Diller’s block on Tuesday. It showed how the neighborhood pulls together and respects law enforcement, she said.

“It’s what we do as a community, it’s what makes Massapequa Park,” she said. “We’re here for each other in a time of need.”

Officer Diller graduated in 2014 from the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx with a degree in marine transportation. He married Stephanie McAuley in November, 2019, according to online postings that include wedding photos of them surrounded by loved ones.

Then there are the photos with newborn Ryan, often in front of police vehicles or helicopters.

“He’s a true hero in every sense of the word,” Ms. Ferranola said.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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