By Emily Drooby and Allyson Escobar
It was a rainy, solemn occasion as hundreds gathered in Jersey City, N.J., on Dec. 17 for the funeral of Jersey City Police Department Det. Joseph Seals, which was held at St. Aedan’s church, where police and family members paid their final respects to the slain officer, who was Catholic.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., celebrated the funeral Mass.
Before the Mass, hundreds of uniformed officers from the area marched in procession down Bergen Street in downtown Jersey City, as bagpipes and taps were played. A giant flag honoring Seals was hung by the Jersey City Fire Department.
Seals’ family, including his widow, Laura, and his five children, watched in anguish as the coffin, draped with an American flag, was carried out.
On Dec. 10, Seals was fatally shot during a multisite shooting spree in Jersey City that included an attack on a kosher supermarket, where five were killed, including the two suspects and three bystanders. The store is located across the street from Sacred Heart School, whose building was hit by bullets during the shootout.
Seals, who served on the police force for 15 years, lived in North Arlington, N.J., and grew up in nearby Bayonne.
From childhood, he showed an interest in law enforcement, according to NJ.com. He joined the Jersey City Police Department in 2006 and served in the busy South District, working with the Cease Fire Unit. He was made detective in 2017.
Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told reporters that Seals was the leading officer in “removing dozens and dozens of handguns.”
Deborah Perruzza, Seals’ mom, told Fox News that “he followed his dreams. He wanted to be a police officer. It’s all he ever wanted to do, and he accomplished it. Everyone loved him. He was a fair cop. He helped people.”
Seals and his family attended Queen of Peace Parish in North Arlington.
Father Mike Donovan, the pastor, told The Tablet that Seals was “a dedicated person” and “a beaming father.”
“Everyone had wonderful things to say about him. It’s amazing how the community, his kids, are all supporting one another,” said Father Donovan, who baptized Seals’ youngest daughter, 2-year-old Isabell, last year. The priest remembers seeing the fallen detective filled with so much joy on that day.
“He was grinning from ear to ear to witness something that special,” Father Donovan said.
Father Donovan said that one of Seals’ sons, Ethan, belongs to the parish’s Boy Scouts troop. Another one of his sons, Adrian, attends St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark.
“They are getting by day by day, and with tremendous support from the community and the police. Laura must have told her children that daddy is in heaven with the angels,” Father Donovan said.
“We believe there is a God of love and mercy, and we believe that Joseph is in heaven. He will not be home for Christmas, but he will be celebrating Christmas in heaven.”
The parish held a candlelight vigil for Seals on the steps of the church on Dec. 15, with about 500 people, including North Arlington Mayor Daniel Pronti, in attendance.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, an organization founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to help families of fallen first responders, will pay off the mortgage on the Seals’ home.
“When we heard the news about Detective Seals, we at the Tunnel to Towers Foundation knew we had to do something to help his family. Detective Seals was the definition of an American hero. He made the ultimate sacrifice for his community and for his country,” CEO Frank Siller said in a statement.
Siller promised that Tunnel to Towers — which has paid the mortgage on the homes of more than 40 families of fallen first responders since 2014 – would have the mortgage paid off by Christmas.
Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, the union for the Jersey City police, said that Seals was “everything a police officer should be. He loved making Jersey City safer, but above all he loved his family.”
“Joe will be missed, as a cop and a person,” Disbrow told The Tablet.
“Taking care of a fallen officer’s family is what we do,” Disbrow said. “Detective Seals gave his life so that others could live, and we are going to do whatever we can to make sure his wife and children don’t suffer any more than they have to for him doing that.”