Tribal drum music and the pungent aroma of burning sage filled Shoshone Peguese’s small house in Cortlandt Manor, NY this morning.
The smoking sage rested on the dining room table in front of a photograph of a happy couple and a braided piece of sweet grass for good luck. Following the practices of her Native American culture, Peguese was smudging, or cleansing, her home in an effort to cope with the loss of her fiancé, New York City Police Officer Alain Schaberger.
Schaberger died in aearly Sunday morning when he responded to a domestic violence call on St. Marks Place in Boerum Hill. In a scuffle to cuff the suspect, Schaberger was pushed over a railing on the front steps, and into a concrete stairwell. Schaberger fell 9-feet and broke his neck. He was rushed to Lutheran Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
Earlier today, in her quiet home in Cortlandt Manor, Pegeuse flipped one of Schaberger’s unlit cigarettes back and forth between her fingertips as she remembered him.
“This world is a battle between good and evil,” Peguese said. “Evil is what took Alain. He was a soldier for peace.”
Schaberger, 42, proposed to Peguese, 45, last October and they had plans to marry this summer. The two met on an online dating site in 2007 and lived together in Cortlandt for the last two years. Schaberger was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States when he was 5-years-old. His father is an Army veteran who worked as a civilian guard at the U.S. Embassy and married Alain’s Vietnamese mother. Schaberger and his sister were raised in East Islip, Long Island.
Peguese is a Southeastern Native American from the Pee Dee Indian Nation of South Carolina. She grew up in Ridgewood, Queens, then moved to Connecticut before moving to Cortlandt.
The two both worked night shifts in the city. Schaberger served as a New York City Police officer for 10 years, and spent the last six years on night patrol in the 84th Precinct. He served four years in the Navy prior to his time on the police force. Peguese has worked as a transit station booth operator in Manhattan for 13 years.
“I feel like someone has punched me in the heart with a knife,” Peguese said. “It is like I am awake in a bad dream.”
The couple’s neighbors did not know them well, butboth as private people who always exchanged friendly hellos and smiles.
“He was a man who devoted his whole life to helping others and he lost his life helping someone as well,” said Town of Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi.
Peguese’s 9-year-old son Ratu, who had been living with his grandmother in New York City, came to live with the couple six months ago. Both he and Peguese’s other son, who is 24 years old and lives in Connecticut, enjoyed spending time with Schaberger.
“We did everything together,” said Ratu. “We played video games, watched movies, played ball.”
Ratu has been trying to comfort his mother over the last few days.
“When I woke up around 9:30 this morning, because that is when Alain used to get home, I started crying,” Peguese said. “Ratu came and hugged me and told me, ‘It’s all right, sweetheart.’ He used to hear Alain call me that all the time.”
Peguese said that she and Schaberger liked to go whale watching and had planned to go on vacation in the next few weeks. He also enjoyed going out to eat, spending time at home and attending Native American cultural events with her.
“We were very well in sync,” she said. “He accepted and embraced my culture and was like one of my people. Everyone thought he was one of us.”
A custom-made, hand-beaded elk skin dress was hanging on Ratu’s door. Peguese said Schaberger had bought it for her birthday two years ago and she wore it to the Native American Festival held in F.D.R. State Park in Yorktown every summer.
“Very rarely in this world do you find a genuinely kind soul like Alain,” said Peguese. “He never demonstrated any type of prejudice, hatred or anything. The only thing that bothered him was how callous people could be.”
Peguese last spoke to Schaberger around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning when he told her he was out responding to calls and not on his usual traffic post beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that night. An inspector called Peguese at 5:30 a.m. Sunday and asked to confirm her address, but did not tell her what had happened to Schaberger.
“I started screaming, ‘Where is he?’ and the inspector was asking me to stay calm,” she said.
In less than an hour Peguese and Ratu were boarding a helicopter at the Cortlandt train station, heading to Lutheran hospital.
“It is so surreal,” Peguese said. "I was telling them to stop making things up."
When Peguese reached Lutheran she was taken to a small room filled with police and other officials, including Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hugged her and offered his condolences.
“If I could bring him back I would,” Bloomberg told her.
Peguese decided to visit Alain’s body to say goodbye. Her mother told her to be strong.
“We are Indian, we are strong people,” her mother said.
Now, two days later, Peguese remembers her fiancé by surrounding herself with his things, looking at photos of him and listening to their song, “Love of a Lifetime,” by Firehouse.
“Alain was an angel, a mercenary in this world of evil,” Peguese said.
This article was originally published on . Officer Schaberger resided with his fiance, Shoshone Peguese, in Cortlandt Manor, NY.