The rescue attempt, the losses … reporting from St. John’s Church
By Jim Coughlin
Worcester Police Officer Emmanuel “Manny” Familia of Worcester died on June 4, 2021, after trying unsuccefully to save a youth aged 14 from Virginia, who was visiting family in Worcester, when he swam out too far – along with two other youths – and was seen drowning by onlookers. They called 911…the WPD arrived at the pond at Green Hill Park. Officer Familia was one of a few Worcester police officers who waded, then swam into the pond to save the kids.
Familia was born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, on February 23, 1983. He came to Worcester as a young boy and graduated from Doherty Memorial High School, the class of 2001. After graduating from Doherty where he met and married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer (Cruz) Familia and had two children: his son, Jovan F. Familia and a daughter, Jayla A. Familia. Following high school, he attended Quinsigamond Community College and most recently was pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Anna Marie College in Paxton, Massachusetts.
For the past five years, Manny served as a police officer for the Worcester Police Departme. He was assigned to the Operations Division working in the department’s Route 2, serving in the northeast section of Worcester and in the department’s Tactical Patrol Force, along with the Crises Intervention Team and also as a Crises Negotiator.
Prior to joining the Worcester Police Department, he previously worked for the the town of Oakham, the Qunsigamond Community College and the Clark University Police Departments.
The wake for the fallen officer was held at St. John’s Church on Temple Street from 4 to 8 p.m on June 10th and the funeral Mass of the Resrruction for the
Catholic Church was held the following day at 10 a.m. I attended. At the start of visiting hours, a long line of mournors had assembled that initially consisted of mostly uniformed police officers … as the line grew, there was also a smattering of uniformed police from other communities from some communites in the Worcester area.
However, when this reporter sought to get comments from Manny’s comrades on the Worcester police force, not one of them felt comfortable about commenting for the story on their fallen comrade.
The loss of their brother was too great for all of them to come to say anything.
One WPD officer told me, “its too soon.”
While another told me, “I just can’t talk about it.”
This reporter totally understands trauma and loss because I am a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing that had happened in Copley Square Boston on April 15, 2013. I was riding my bicycle just outside the perpiter of the race. I carry some of the battle scars with me everyday, mainly severe hearing loss in my left ear.
I did, however, get a comment from one of Manny’s classmates from his time in the police academy in July of 2016. Peter Geradi, a patrol officer with the town of Westboro Police Department, said: “I loved his smile. … He (Manny) would put himself before others. He would be the first one to take blame if anyone got in trouble and say it was my fault.”
Also in the line was a uniformed police officer from Northhampton, Massachusetts, who was with his partner, “Douglas,” a 3 year old Golden Doodle, a comfort dog whom he described as “officially working” as they both scanned the line of mourners waiting to go into the century old church to pay their last respects to Manny.
I did manage to get a comment from one of the fallen officer’s relatives, Mario Pineda, who said, “I am a second uncle to Manny. We played softball, together. This is so sad.”
Also in the line was a uniformed police officer from the Worcester area who also knew Familia but declined to give either his name or department affiliation because of what he said “was (police) department policy.”
“Manny was a very good officer, was very proficient and knew how to deal with numerous situations. He was just a very proficient cop and his potential was limitless,” he said.
As the line of police officers began to thin out, it was then Manny’s friends and neighbors that composed the on-going line going into St. Johns Church. Among them was Roberto Diaz of Worcester who grew up with Manny on Dewey Street in Worcester. He said, “We played basketball, together.” He was a great athlete, a good athelete, a good brother, father and husband, he said, adding, “there was nothing he could not put his mind to and could not do.”
What Diaz mostly admired about their relationship was that despite their both coming from different cultures – Manny was Dominican and Diaz is Puerto Rican – there was respect and love.