NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A career criminal was charged late Wednesday in the fatal shooting of an NYPD officer during a gunfight on a pedestrian bridge after stealing a bike, authorities said Wednesday.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, suspect Tyrone Howard was arraigned late Wednesday night in Manhattan Criminal Court in the shooting that killed Officer Randolph Holder. Hundreds of stone-faced NYPD officers were in the courtroom as the crowd spilled into the hallway.
One of the officers yelled, “I hope you burn,” as a judge ordered Howard held without bail.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, voiced his members’ anger after the arraignment.
“This coward couldn’t even stand up. Yesterday evening, he was able to run. Yesterday evening, he was able to pull a gun. Yesterday evening, he was tough enough to pull that trigger and kill a police officer,” Lynch said.
Earlier Howard ignored questions and kept his head down as he left the 25th Precinct stationhouse Wednesday night.
Howard, 30, was charged with first-degree murder and robbery Wednesday night, police said. .
Bullet-riddled cars showed the aftermath of the wild shootout in East Harlem that led to the death of Holder on Tuesday night. And as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, police said Howard should not have been on the streets in the first place.
Howard had been arrested 28 times for allegedly shooting an 11-year-old as well as committing robbery and assault.
He had been sentenced to state prison twice since 2007 on drug possession and sale convictions, state records show.
“The perpetrator involved here was obviously a hardened violent criminal that should not be on the streets,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
Police said Howard’s arrest record goes back to when he was 13. In sum, the allegations included assault, robbery and a total of nine for the criminal sale of a controlled substance. Howard also had a record of two arrests for the criminal possession of marijuana, and others for public lewdness, criminal trespass and conspiracy.
Last year, Howard was placed in a drug diversion program meant to spare jail time for drug offenders to ease jail overcrowding. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that move was an incredibly bad idea.
“If ever there was a candidate for someone not to be diverted, it’s this guy,” Bratton said. “He’s the poster boy for not being diverted.”
Howard never showed up for the program anyway, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
Howard was also wanted in connection with a Sept. 1 shooting in Manhattan, said James O’Neill, the NYPD’s chief of department. Investigators suspected Howard had shot at a member of the East Army gang, but he wasn’t arrested because he skipped out on court dates and police couldn’t track him down at his home, O’Neill told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.
A representative of the Criminal Court system said Howard was actually a perfect candidate for the drug diversion program.
But de Blasio did not agree.
“There’s something we have to address in our criminal justice system,” de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, the FDR Drive between 96th and 125th streets was reopened just before 1 p.m. Wednesday. It had been closed for hours as NYPD detectives retraced the final steps of the 33-year-old officer.
Earlier Wednesday morning, dozens of Holder’s fellow officers stood outside the hospital and saluted as the ambulance carrying their fallen colleague left. Afterward, many embraced one another.
“He did what every other officer in the NYPD does when the call comes — he ran toward danger,” Bratton said Tuesday. “It was the last time he will respond to that call.”
The fatal shooting happened as Holder and his partner responded to a report of shots being fired at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday near a public housing development in East Harlem.
When they arrived, a man and other witnesses said his bike had been stolen at gunpoint and the suspect fled with a group of people along a footpath heading north on the FDR Drive.
That’s when the officers caught up to a man with a bike on a pedestrian overpass that spans the highway and traded gunfire, police said.
“He puts the bike down, he pulls out his weapon and he fires one time, striking the officer in the front of the head,” Chief of Manhattan Detectives William Aubry said.
People who live nearby described hearing the gunfire.
“I was laying there and you hear ‘pow, pow’ and then you hear the helicopters, the sirens,” resident Yvonne Thomas told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.
“I would say between 10 to 15, there was a lot,” said resident Jennifer Abbate. “At first, we were like that’s so many, it can’t be gunshots.”
The suspect ditched the bike and fled down the river path near the highway, police said. He was caught several blocks away with a gunshot wound to his leg, Bratton said.
“It was insane,” Abbate said. “There were plain clothes cops everywhere, uniformed police, detectives. There were hundreds of police officers here. They all swarmed in.”
Officer Holder was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he died just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Three others who had been questioned were released.
“I feel very bad for that officer’s family and what they have to go through,” Thomas said. “I’m keeping them in my prayers.”
Police on Wednesday searched for the suspect’s gun near where Holder had been shot. They had recovered a clip and shell casings believed to have come from Howard’s weapon.
De Blasio said Holder, who joined the force in July 2010, had an “exemplary record” as a police officer.
“We are humbled by Officer Randolph Holder’s example, an example of service and courage and sacrifice,” de Blasio said Tuesday. “We’re all in mourning. The whole city is in mourning.”
Holder was a native of Guyana. In the NYPD, he worked in the division that polices the city’s public housing developments. His father and grandfather both were police officers in Guyana, Bratton said.
“New York City police officers every day go out and carry themselves like superheroes, but the reality is when we’re attacked, we bleed; when we bleed, we die; and when we die, we cry,” Lynch said Tuesday.
De Blasio ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff on all city buildings and stationary flagstaffs throughout the five boroughs until Officer Holder’s interment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also ordered flags to flown at half-staff on all state government buildings.
“Last night, one of New York’s Finest was taken while in the line of duty,” Cuomo said. “Officer Holder acted with bravery and selflessness in protecting countless New Yorkers in the midst of an extremely dangerous situation. Today I ask all New Yorkers to keep Officer Holder’s loved ones and colleagues at the NYPD in their thoughts and prayers.”
Holder is the fourth NYPD officer to die in the line of duty since December.
Officer Brian Moore, 25, was killed on May 9 during a patrol. A suspect was charged with murder.
On Dec. 20, officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40 were ambushed and killed by a man who said he wanted to kill some cops in Brooklyn. The suspect killed himself in a nearby subway station.
So far this year, 101 police officers have died in the line of duty in the U.S. — 33 of those deaths caused by gunfire — according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. By early Wednesday, Holder’s name already had been added to the list.
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