Police union supporters vexed by Gray funeral no-show
UPDATED 7:05 P.M.
Officer Paul Dittamo, the D.C. police officer killed in a Saturday car crash, was eulogized and laid to rest today. But several prominent leaders were notably absent for the funeral -- the first for an officer killed in the line of duty since 2007. Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray, for one.
Mayor Adrian Fenty, who has been criticized for missing past funerals, did attend, albeit late.
Leaders of the police union, an early and enthusiastic endorser of Gray's, are irate. Union chairman Kristopher Baumann called the snub "unimaginable."
"The political leadership of D.C. sent a pretty serious message to the city's first responders," Baumann said. "I can't think of any city in the country when if you have had a line-of-duty death, the mayor or mayor-elect would not come to pay his respects."
The funeral, held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Prince William County, was followed by a procession into the District's 7th police district, where Dittamo served, before returning to Virginia for the interment. Baumann said that Mayor Adrian Fenty arrived near the end of the service to deliver brief remarks. No other elected official, he said, attended.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who chairs the public safety committee, said he was not aware that the funeral was today. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, he said, had told him Sunday that it had been tentatively scheduled for this weekend. Mendelson said he regrets not attending. "I feel bad about it," he said.
Fenty came under fire on several occasions for skipping funerals where a mayoral presence would have been expected -- including for several victims of the June 2009 Metro crash and the grand sendoff for Abe Pollin, the developer, sports team owner, and civic leader.
It's unclear where Gray, considered to be more sensitive than Fenty to this sort of thing, might have been. An inquiry with his spokeswoman as to his whereabouts was not immediately answered.
"Needless to say, there are some questions being asked of me by my members right now," said Baumann.
UPDATED, 2:10 P.M.: Earlier this afternoon, Gray was dining at the Fourth Estate, the restaurant at the National Press Club, according to a tweet from the restaurant.
Kudos to We Love D.C. for spotting the tweet -- then calling and confirming that Gray was with his replacement as council chairman, Kwame Brown.
Said Baumann: "I can't say how disappointing that is for the police officers and firefighters in the District. That's our leadership, and they failed us."
UPDATED, 7:05 P.M.: Gray called to explain that he and his staff were simply unaware that the funeral had been scheduled for this afternoon, calling it an "unfortunate situation where the information wasn't transmitted."
"I certainly would have been involved but frankly I didn't know about it," he said.
He added that he had spoken to Dittamo's father at length and had left a message for his wife. His office, he said, has also contributed to a benefit fund for his family.
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