By Leon Suseran
On the bright and sunny morning of Saturday, November 7, 2020, members of the Ozone Park community, scores of volunteers, elected officials and law enforcement officials turned out in their numbers to honor a special young man. The event took place in the parking lot of the Deshi Senior Center.
NYPD Officer Jason Maharaj (77) was rewarded for his brave conduct on Monday, October 26. Maharaj, while in Craft Beer, Lotto, Cigar store (106 Pct) located at 137-20 Crossbay Blvd, confronted an armed, homeless man that had just shot off three rounds and killed the employee Mohmediyan Tarwala, 26. Notwithstanding the heroic actions of off-duty Po Maharaj, the crime would have ended much worse.
The Ozone Park Residents Block Association OZPKRBA, the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol COPCP, the Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services (BACDYS), the Ozone Park Kiwanis Club, the Ozone Park Howard Beach Woodhaven Lions Club, & the Living Word Christian Fellowship Church, which represents the community as a coalition of caring and concerned organizations, hosted the special awards presentation ceremony.
Mohmediyan Tarwala, originally from India, was living here alone and working while studying on a student visa.
Presenting an award also to Maharaj was NY State District 31 Assembly Leader, Richard David who said that it was no coincidence that the victim was ‘brown’, “that follows a series and pattern of incidents that have happened in this community… to brown, Muslim and South Asian men.”
David added that he was proud to have known the heroic officer is Indo- Caribbean/Trinidadian, “because we have a diverse police force as well that calls this city and community ‘home’.”
He also brought greetings on behalf of Congressman Gregory Meekes. He also praised the efforts of the OPBA/COPCP and other partners who execute the weekly food distribution at the same venue.
“This is what’s making this community great!” David declared.
And NYPD QBPS- Assistant Chief, Ruben Beltran and Victor Rodriguez, President of the Ozone Park Kiwanis Club also presented an award to the young officer. He thanked the OPBA for focusing on the need to honor the young officer and congratulated Maharaj and wished him best of luck in his career.
“It’s really encouraging to see the volunteers out here…and we are here to honor the heroism of Officer Maharaj—something that was easily seen and displayed—the sacrifices and risk that police officers make every day and Jason’s actions really speak for themselves—selfless, just thinking about saving other people at that store—at the risk of his own life—I never get tired of seeing it!” said Beltran in addressing the gathering.
Also making presentations to the young hero were Misba Abdin, Founder and CEO of the Deshi Senior Center and Capt Antonio Fidacaro of the 102Nd Precinct. A representative from Councilwoman Adrienne Adams’s office also conveyed best wishes and thanks to the officer. A representative of Rep Hakim Jefferies was also on stage to show appreciation to the young officer. There was also a representative from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s office who spoke briefly.
Speaking also was President of OPBA, Sam Esposito who asked the gathering to hold a moment’s silence as well, and underscored the lack of resources in the city to deal with the underlying cause of what really happened in that deli that night, ‘and it’s really, really sad and it shouldn’t have happened….and the condition that the city is in, and the homelessness and the lack of mental services in the city—this would have never happened and it should have never happened – and I hope this is a wake- up call for whoever is going to be the next Mayor of the city—that his has to stop, and we cannot live in this condition any longer as citizens and tax payers of the city.”
Assemblyman Mike Miller, in presenting a certificates from Assemblywoman Stacey Amato, and Senator Joseph Addabbo as well as the NY State Assembly to Maharaj and said, “you did your job—off duty—to go and take care of the situation..that’s a true hero…so we thank you for coming to action and for protecting us the way you’re trained to.”
Ann Marie Costello, represented NY State Senator James Sanders, Jr, from NY’s 10th Senatorial District and praised the officer for acting in a way that displays leadership and courage and heroism, “and for that, he deserves our respect.”
The Mayor was represented by Queens Boro Director at the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, Kevin Morris, who thanked Maharaj for his courage. “You are a beacon to this community—you make this community and city proud—the NYPD—thank you for your dedication.” In reading the citation from Mayor Bill de Blasio, “commending your bravery, dedication in protecting our city.”
Maharaj, in addressing the gathering thanked everyone for their support, especially, the organizers of the event. “I truly feel honor..but I also take this time to remember Mr Tarwala, who lost his life…my deepest condolences to his friends, family and loved ones.”
Also making brief remarks was President of COPCP, Iqbal Ali. Queens Community Lions Club member, Patricia Raghunandan presented Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of A&G (Amrita & Gopaul) Organization, to Sam Esposito for his commitment and longstanding service to the community.