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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.

By Mike DeBonis  | November 4, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  The District, Vincent Gray  
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Comments

Gray hosted his victory celebration at a club owned by a man who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the district.
Gray's transition chief is a man who also owes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Gray snubbed the police department only two days after being elected Mayor.

It's easy to speak campaign rhetoric, Vince, but actions speak louder than words. How are we going to close the budget gap if you don't go after those that owe the city HUGE sums of money. How are you going to earn the respect of your personnel if you snub them?

Posted by: hoyasaxadc | November 4, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I have family who serve as police officers. My concolences go out to the families and extended families (fellow officers).

I know it is immensely disappointing that Gray did not show up, but I have no doubt of his dedication and sincere care for the men and women who serve in blue.

He will make it up to MPD.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | November 4, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Vince Gray's response as to te no show was because "nobody told him." Vince Gray is the same man who whines about President Obama not calling to congratulate him after his primary win but quick to tell everyone how he was invited to lunch on Dec. 1, 2010. Today is a early showing of Gray's priorities. Come on Gray, at least offe an apology or some type of PR spin on the situation.To say that you don't know about the first police officer who was killed in the line of fire since 2007, funeral is lame. I certaintly hope that going forward, Vince does not let this type of situation occur. Than again when he cut the funding in the middle of the night for the Streetcr project, he said that happened because he went home early that night. Guess Kris may not be replacing Lanier after all.

Posted by: Amanda_Broadnax | November 4, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Vince Gray's response as to the no show was because "nobody told him." Vince Gray is the same man who whines about President Obama not calling to congratulate him after his primary win but quick to tell everyone how he was invited to lunch on Dec. 1, 2010. Today is a early showing of Gray's priorities. Come on Gray, at least offe an apology or some type of PR spin on the situation.To say that you don't know about the first police officer who was killed in the line of fire since 2007, funeral is lame. I certaintly hope that going forward, Vince does not let this type of situation occur. Than again when he cut the funding in the middle of the night for the Streetcr project, he said that happened because he went home early that night. Guess Kris may not be replacing Lanier after all.

Posted by: Amanda_Broadnax | November 4, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Our new mayor elect "simply wasnt aware" come on that is a load of BULL -- Even if NOBODY told YOU it made NATIONAL NEWS - This is just horrible so he is saying he has to be "TOLD" everything -- How can you not know that this officer in "YOUR" 'ONE CITY" was not killed and his funeral was today -- Is it "one city" or is it "All about GRAY"

Posted by: DCLEO4life | November 4, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Vince Gray and his staff need to go back and read politics 101. Whenever a police officer or firefighter loses their life in the line of duty, the CEO must be present at their funeral and/or memorial service. Kwame Brown should have been there too. "Get your head out of your four point of contact, Mr. Mayor!"

Posted by: nelsonjackson1 | November 5, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

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