NYPD officer hit, killed on highway lived 'American dream'

NEW YORK (AP) - A New York police officer killed by a suspected drunk driver was hailed at his funeral Tuesday as the humble officer, fond father and "perfect picture of the American dream."
Anastasios Tsakos, a 14-year-old police department veteran, was beaten and killed last week while assisting officers at the site of a previous crash on the Long Island Expressway in Queens.
"It makes no sense how someone can live his life properly in every way and be taken from us so horribly, but his heroism elevates us," Mayor Bill de Blasio told the mourners in a Long Island church. “Some people are real heroes. Some people are there for others. And that was Anastasios Tsakos in every way. "
Tsakos, who grew up in Greece and New York City, served in the Greek Army after high school, worked in his father's diner on Long Island, studied aviation in college and dreamed of flying helicopters for the NYPD, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
Tsakos, a member of the department's elite freeway division, took pride in his job of getting drunk and reckless drivers off the streets, Shea said. With the department restricting overtime, he would go to court to testify in his spare time because he hated seeing people get away with wrongdoing, Shea said.
The police superintendent posthumously promoted Tsakos, known to his friends as Taso, to the first class of detective and presented his wife Irene with a gold detective badge.
Large portraits of tsakos and displays of flowers, including one with Greek and American flags, flanked his coffin in the Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church in Greenlawn.
"He was absolutely a great cop," Shea said. “Taso was a very intelligent and hardworking man from start to finish. He was the envy of his colleagues. It really was a perfect picture of the American dream. An example of the great diversity of our nation. An example of the exceptional call to service that so many brave New Yorkers embrace. "
Tsakos, 43, was hit around 2 a.m. on April 27 when he was standing next to his police car at the site of a previous accident in which a person died. The car that Tsakos met was driven by a woman who police said was drunk and had a driver's license. She fled but was arrested a short time later.
Jessica Beauvais, 32, of Hempstead, is charged with vehicle manslaughter. She drives intoxicated, intensifies driving without a license and leaves the scene of the accident that led to her death. She was detained without bail and is due to appear in court on May 12.
After her arrest, Beauvais tearfully told reporters: "I'm sorry because I hit him and that he is dead."
In his remarks, De Blasio called on state lawmakers to tighten penalties for people who cause harm or kill others while driving under the influence of alcohol.
"We have to make this change and make it in honor of Officer Anastasios Tsakos," said de Blasio.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation, which was set up after September 11th to support families of fallen first responders, has announced that it will repay the mortgage on Tsakos' house.
Irene Tsakos said her husband is a loving father to her 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son. He built little houses out of cardboard boxes, played horse, taught them the names of all his tools, and let their daughter play hairdresser with his hair.
Anastasios Tsakos was an eternal optimist and avid motorcyclist, Irene told family, friends and police officers - many wore masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a pilot, he dreamed of entering the lottery to buy a small plane and take her to travel around the world, she said.
“I'll miss everything about him. Everything. Most of all, I'll miss his hugs, ”said Irene Tsakos, before lingering over her husband's open coffin as the church was cleared of all but a few mourners.
"I wish he had more time - to watch our children grow, take them to college, and get married," she said. “I wish we could grow old together. That was the plan. But he was taken from us too soon. "
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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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