Rogue cop who was not on patrol duty stood mere feet from Pope Francis and refused to move away during U.S. visit!
- Port Authority union boss Paul Nunziato wasn’t on patrol during papal visit
- But he slipped past officers to stand next to Pope Francis’ visit to 9/11
- The cop defied orders by three of his superior officers to leave the area
- He also breached the rules for not wearing his cap in ‘a military manner’
- Nunziato says he had a right to be there for PAPD officers who died in 9/11
- Cop has since been charged with violating department’s rules of conduct
A cop who stood guard a few feet away from Pope Francis during his U.S. visit had not been on patrol and refused to leave when ordered, according to disciplinary documents.
Port Authority union boss Paul Nunziato was not on papal patrol during the pope’s visit to the 9/11 Memorial during the New York leg of his U.S. tour in September.
But that did not stop the cop slipping past the officers on duty to stand next to the Catholic leader as he prayed with Timothy Cardinal Dolan for those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
When his superiors noticed Nunziato – who was not in proper uniform and had no business on papal patrol – they ordered him to leave.
But the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association (PAPBA) president refused, according to disciplinary papers, seen by the New York Post.
He allegedly defied orders from three separate superior officers and remained in the high security, restricted zone, next to the pope.
Nunziato has since been charged with violating the department’s rules of conduct. The department had not yet stated what punishment he could face.
He is also accused of breaking the rule which states that caps should be worn in ‘a military manner.’ The cop had not been wearing his but had hung it on the side of his gun belt, the papers reveal.
Nunziato claims he had a right to watch the pope bless the names of the victims who died in September 11 as a representative of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).
More than half of the 71 police officers who lost their lives when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed in the attacks in 2001 belonged to the department.
The PAPBA president said he was personally asked to attend the event by two widows of officers in his department who died in 9/11 so that the PAPD would get proper recognition alongside the NYPD and Fire Department of New York.
Nunziato, a 28-year veteran who heads the union that represents his 1,300 colleagues, claims that he was simply let through by members of the Secret Service.
‘I think I earned the right to stand next to that reflecting pool as the pope blessed it, and anyone who disagrees with that can kiss my ass,’ he told The Post!
‘I had 37 police officers’ names on that reflecting pool that the pope was going to bless, and I told them if anyone was going to stand here as he blessed that pool, it was going to be me.
He added that he had removed his hat – against the department’s rules – as a sign of respect to the papal leader.
It is not the brash police officer’s first brush with controversy.
Last year, Nunziato – a friend of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former PA David Wildstein – was caught up in the Bridgegate scandal.
Bridgegate, also known as the Fort Lee lane closure scandal, saw the George Washington Bridge local lanes closed after Fort Lee mayor refused to back Gov. Christie’s re-election bid.
Nunziato was subpoenaed over allegations he had suggested to Wildstein he hold a ‘traffic study’ at the bridge. He was never charged.
During the latest controversy, Nunziato can be seen in numerous pictures of the pope’s visit to the memorial, standing a few feet back as Francis prays over the names.
Pope Francis had delivered an emotional speech at the memorial where he mourned the lives of the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks and condemned senseless acts of violence while speaking in the foundations of the former Twin Towers.
When he arrived at Ground Zero, the pope stood at the side of the twin reflecting pools where he spent a few moments with his head bowed in solemn silence. He then laid a white flower, a symbol of innocence and purity, on the side of the fountains which bare the names of the fallen.
Nunziato can be seen standing behind him during the solemn event.
Speaking at an interfaith ceremony at the National September 11 museum, the pope said he felt ‘moved’ by his visit to Ground Zero.
‘You can feel the pain here. It’s palpable,’ he said.
He also spoke about the fountains above the museum, saying the water is symbolic of the tears of the victims.
The religious leader had also met with some of the families of those who had lost their loved ones in the tragedy.
About 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York as well as in Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The number includes 71 police officers – 37 of those PAPD officers – who were killed while responding to the attack on the towers which then collapsed.
Eighteen relatives of people who died in the attacks were among the 400 invited to hear the pope’s remarks.