It was an honor long overdue.
After more than four decades, a Boston police officer is finally getting his rightful place in history. On Oct. 12, Officer Jose Maceira’s name was added to the Wall of Honor at Boston police headquarters in memory of officers killed in the line of duty, and in May, Maceira was one of four Massachusetts police officers whose names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.
It took so long to honor Maceira because at the time of his death, officers had to die from their injuries within one year and one day for it to be considered an on-duty death. He died in 1976, almost three years after he was shot while on patrol.
The laws in Massachusetts regarding what's considered "killed in the line of duty" changed in 1999 with Commonwealth vs. Raul Casanova case. Today, if an officer is shot while on-duty it doesn't matter how many years later he or she dies. If the injuries are related to the shooting, the officer is deemed killed in the line of duty.
Thanks to the hard work of several police officers, who recently stumbled on his case by luck, his family is able to find closure after so many years.
Officer Bob Anthony, a Boston police historian and retired Detective Joe Cesar (a friend and fellow officer of Maciera's) worked together to uncover the necessary documents to change Maciera's status.
"We owe a lot to Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans. Maciera's case was all but forgotten, but Commissioner Evans felt this was important and gave us the push to do the research," Cesar told Fox News Latino.
Commissioner Evans told Fox News Latino honoring Maciera shows that the department never forgets one of its own, especially one who gave the ultimate sacrifice. "What a great honor, especially because he was the first Latino. His family couldn't have been more proud. He was a distinguished member," Evans said.
Steve Groeninger, senior director of communications with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, told Fox News Latino that Maciera was added this year when his name was submitted by the Boston Police Department.
On Nov. 23, 1974, Patrolman Maceira and his training partner were responding to a call about two people trespassing on the railroad tracks. During the encounter, the suspects began struggling with the officers. During the scuffle, Maceira's service revolver was taken out of its holster and he was shot in the cheek, the bullet traveled to his jaw and neck. The wound caused trauma to his throat and vocal cords, leaving him disabled.
In the years following the shooting, he struggled with difficulty swallowing. Two years after the shooting, he choked to death. He was 33 years old.
Maceira was only nine months into the job and only a few weeks on the street when he joined the Boston Police Department after serving in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam.
Cesar met Maciera, who was born in Puerto Rico, before the two started at the police department.
"There weren't a lot of Hispanics in the Boston Police department. We were close. English was a second language for both of us. We studied for the tests together, and although we struggled, we did pass," Cesar says.
Cesar told FNL that after the shooting, he would visit Maciera and his family almost every day. After he died, he went to the police department to advocate for his friend to receive the benefits of someone killed in the line of duty, but to no avail.
But decades later, he was finally given that distinction. Last week, the Boston Police Department held a ceremony adding Maceira’s name to the Wall of Honor. He was the first Hispanic in the Boston Police Department to die in the line of duty.
Ricardo Maceira, Jose's son, who now lives in Florida, was joined by his mother, Estefania Parra, and his siblings Cristina, Javier and John at last week’s ceremony.
“It’s long overdue, it feels amazing,” Ricardo Maciera told the Boston Herald. “It brought a sense of closure that I never even realized I needed. It’s great to see him honored – better late than never.”
Parra, 79, who pulled off the black tape covering her late husband’s name on the wall, told the Herald that it was a bittersweet moment because it reminded her of his death. But still, she felt such a sense of pride.
During the ceremony, several police and elected officials thanked Marceira’s family for his service.
“You may have had a short life with you father and your husband, but he gave the city tremendous service,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “As a city, we were fortunate to have him as an officer protecting our streets.”
The mayor said even though it took so long for him to be included on the wall, his memory was never forgotten.
“We will always remember him as a great Puerto Rican veteran, public safety hero of our great city,” he said. “And we’re committed to keep his legacy strong.”
Rebekah Sager is a writer/editor for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager