ITHACA, NY — The Ithaca community gathered with various members of surrounding law enforcement in Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Church on Thursday morning to commemorate fallen police officer, Michael Padula.

Thursday morning marked the 20th anniversary of Investigator Padula’s death on November 17, 1996. Records show Padula responded to a call reporting an emotionally disturbed person – a female suspect who had barricaded herself in the bathroom. Upon Padula’s arrival, the woman reportedly fled from the bathroom, stabbing him in the neck. Padula died shortly after from his injuries.

Padula worked for the Ithaca Police Department for 18 years leading up to this day, working as a city investigator. He died at age 45. The Badge of Honor Association commemorated Padula two years ago with a plaque at the location of his death on West State St.

The memorial was led by Father Paul Bonacci, who has served as a volunteer firefighter and has a background in police work. Bonacci began the ceremony by giving thanks to emergency medical personnel and those in positions of law enforcement.

“If our security or safety is threatened, in the darkness of that moment, it is our police officers who are the shining stars,” he said. “You allow us the freedom of living, and for that, we thank you.”

Following the memorial, Bonacci, with the help of children from the Immaculate Conception School, handed out handmade cards from the children to all members of law enforcement who came to show their support. This included members from Tioga County Sheriff’s Dept., Tompkins County Sheriff’s Dept., Spencer Police, Cortland Police, Ithaca Police, and campus police for Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Beau Saul, the director of campus police at TC3, spoke shortly after, offering a reflection of Padula – his past co-worker, partner, roommate and friend.

“There were very few people who Mike disliked – he may have disliked behavior, but he rarely disliked the person,” Saul said.

Chief John Barber said that Padula died two years after Barber joined the IPD. They worked cases together, and among many others, Barber considered him a friend.

“It’s extra special to see the number of people who came out, the children from Immaculate Conception and a good number of retired officers – those who were really closely connected with him,” Barber said. “It’s a great reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that one of our own made for this community.”

Saul said in his closing remarks that Padula stood as an example for all those who served in law enforcement positions.

“He did not hate. He showed us by his actions that everyone is worthy of respect, and that at as cops as firefighters, as EMT’s, we have to live and embody that for the people that call upon us to help.”

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.