Uniformed police officers wore a memorial bar - a piece of black cloth around their badge numbers - as a symbol of mourning Wednesday, when they poured into Jersey City from all over the country and even as far as Ireland to mourn the late officer. Infantes had been beaten to death with a lead pipe the week before, allegedly after an argument over fireworks being set off by neighbors on July 4.
Two suspects have been arraigned and charged with the beating.
On Wednesday morning, 138 police departments, 26 Honor Guards, 33 bag pipe bands, and four helicopters participated in the memorial service, according to Jersey City Sgt. Edgar Martinez. The procession wended its way from McLaughlin's Funeral Home to St. Alyosius Church.
Thousands of these attendants waited outside the church, where Infantes, 29, had gotten married just two months ago. Family, friends, and members of the Jersey City police department grieved inside and listened to eulogies. "The loss of Domenick was not just a loss to his family, to the police department, or to the people of Jersey City, but a loss to society at large," said Peter Behrens, acting director of the police department, as he stood at the front of the church. "He was an example to the officers he worked with."
"I stand here proud of Domenick as a citizen, as a man, as a brother," said Eric Infantes, the brother of Officer Infantes. "We had a special relationship. The type of relationship I'll never have again."
Mayor Cunningham, comparing Infantes to a shooting star, told the officer's family, "On behalf of the city and the employees of Jersey City, we wanted you to know we share your sorrow." On Monday, Cunningham had awarded Infantes the Medal of Honor at his wake, and presented the family with a replica of the medal.
Members of the police department said last week that Infantes had been a giving person. Behrens said that Infantes had wanted to be a police officer since he was 6 years old.
Deputy Chief Victor Perez said, "He was a jovial character. He helped people on his off-duty time."
Infantes helped children and senior citizens throughout the city, Perez said. "If somebody needed milk, he offered to get it," he said.
"He did Christmas toy drives," said Deputy Chief Anthony Wells. "Some people would come in with donations and he would direct them to boys and girls in public housing."
"He was a top-notch guy," said Det. Michael Post. On Halloween, he said, Infantes walked around his beat and handed goodie bags out to children in public housing. "He volunteered for every housing function going, whether it was their Christmas party or community meeting," Post said. "He knew the purpose of the job."
But Infantes' brother said these deeds were commonplace to Infantes.
"All of this was not special to him," said Eric Infantes, who himself is applying to be a police officer. "It was an everyday thing."
Infantes' contributions did not go unnoticed. He was a decorated officer who received a commendation, two community service awards, and two excellent police service awards.
"Just two years ago, he and police officer Jaimie Wilde delivered a baby in the Layfayette Gardens," Post said. "The Medical Center was backed up and they couldn't get there in time."
Understanding the incident
In his eulogy, Police Chaplain Frank Carter addressed the inability to make sense out of Infantes' death.
"I'm not going to stand here and make rhyme or reason out of it," he said.
Indeed, the circumstances leading up to Infantes'death bear little reason.
While attending a barbecue at Williams Avenue on the Fourth of July, Infantes attempted to stop residents next door from lighting fireworks, officials say. Brian Belka, a friend of Infantes, had previously asked the neighbors to refrain from using fireworks. A fight ensued between Belka and the neighbors, and an unarmed Infantes tried to intervene.
Two brothers, Benjamin Gavina, 42, and Alfredo Gavina, 40, have been charged with attacking Infantes with four-foot lead pipes. As police arrived on the scene, they witnessed the blow to the head that left Infantes in a coma. He was taken off life support two days later.
Even though Infantes was off duty, police are supposed to intervene in situations involving illegal activities. Fireworks are illegal in New Jersey, and thus, Infantes died in the line of duty.
"Look at what he did," Perez said. "He went over there to tell them not to light fireworks because you could get hurt. He thought he could talk them down."
The brothers were arraigned on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to murder charges, according to Daniel J. Gibney, chief of investigations for the county prosecutor's office. Bail was set for Benjamin Gavina at $5 million and for Alfredo at $2 million.
The congregation ushered into West Side Avenue to the sound of bagpipes playing "Going Home." The coffin was placed in the hearse and driven to the North Arlington Cemetery.
In his final words commemorating his brother, Eric Infantes said, "He was a wonderful son, a wonderful brother, a wonderful husband, and, most importantly, he was a wonderful Jersey City police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice."