Sophie Sonnenfeld, Contributing Photographer

After being laid to rest in January, Officer Diane Gonzalez is now being commemorated in the lobby of the New Haven Police Department Headquarters. 

Gonzalez’s family, friends and NHPD officers gathered in the NHPD lobby Tuesday afternoon to unveil a plaque dedicated in her honor. Gonzalez suffered a traumatic brain injury from an on-duty car crash in 2008 when she and Sgt. Dario Aponte were responding to a domestic violence dispute in the Fair Haven neighborhood. Aponte died in the crash and Gonzalez sustained a traumatic brain injury. As a result of that injury, she slipped into a 13-year coma from which she never emerged. 

“Loss is never easy in whatever capacity it is but we honor her and all our loved ones lost and we can keep them alive with our memories of them,” said Gonzalez’s daughter Diane Mora-Velez. 

Mora-Velez said she was feeling “overwhelmed” with emotion since losing her mother. 

Gonzalez’s plaque hangs on a blue “above and beyond…” memorial recognizing officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. 

City Architectural Capital Projects Coordinator William MacMullen, who designed and engineered the memorial, recalled that when he first installed the memorial in 2008, the police chief asked him to say a few words. In his speech at the time, he said he hoped the two spaces left on the original memorial would never have to be filled. 

Within a month, he had to hang up another photograph and another plaque on the memorial. 

“The memorial that you see in there really is not an adequate summation of someone’s entire life, especially when they’re in public service,” said MacMullen. Although not representing a full picture of the officers’ lives, MacMullen said he hopes the memorial can stand to remind residents and future officers of these sacrifices. 

At the ceremony Tuesday, Mayor Justin Elicker thanked NHPD officers for their sacrifices and for their dedication to public safety in the city. 

With the risks that come with the badge, Elicker said he is grateful to the families of officers as well. “On behalf of the city of New Haven, we stand with you, we grieve with you, we honor your mother and your grandmother, and we thank you for her sacrifice and for yours,” he said. 

NHPD Acting Chief Renee Dominguez expressed support for Gonzalez’s family in her speech at the plaque unveiling ceremony. Ever since Gonzalez’s passing, Dominguez said she has received thousands of cards, notes, plaques and awards from other agencies around the country and the world honoring Gonzalez for her sacrifice.

“That is what the ultimate sacrifice by your mom and your grandma means to all law enforcement, not just in New Haven, and not just in Connecticut,” Dominguez said.

Gonzalez was the twenty-second officer to have died in the line of duty and the first female officer to have fallen in New Haven. 

Sophie Sonnenfeld is Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as City Editor and covered cops and courts as a beat reporter. She is a junior in Branford College double majoring in political science and anthropology.