Bronx police shootings mirror 2014 slaying of Detectives Ramos and Liu

February 14, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
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BOROUGHWIDE — The shooting of two police officers within 12 hours of each other in the Bronx this past weekend had eerie similarities to a Brooklyn shooting in which two police officers were killed over five years ago. 

Thirty-one-year-old uniformed NYPD officer Paul Stroffolino was in a police van at East 163rd Street and Fox Street around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8. when he was approached and shot. 

The bullet grazed Stroffolino’s chin and neck. He was released from Lincoln Hospital the following day to the applause of a large group of officers and elected officials.

Cops arrested 45-year-old Robert Williams in connection to the shooting. 

12 hours after the first shooting, at around 8 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9, Williams allegedly walked into the 41st Precinct with a gun and began firing at officers, hitting Lt. Jose Gautreaux in the arm. 

Gautreaux was released the next day, also from Lincoln Hospital, and was greeted by a cheering crowd as well.

Unfortunately, Brooklyn stationed officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu did not survive a similar attack. 

Ramos and Liu, both assigned to the 84th Precinct, were inside a vehicle at Bedford-Stuyvesant at around 3 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2014, when 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a Baltimore resident and Brooklyn native, approached the passenger side and fired a gun several times through the window, fatally striking both officers in the head.

Brinsley fled down the street and onto the platform of a nearby subway station, where he shot and killed himself. 

The recent shootings have added to an increased concern about violence against police officers.

“The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety,” said Borough President Eric Adams following the Bronx shootings. “Five years after the horrific assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn, and one day after a series of attempted police assassinations in the Bronx, we stand side by side in solidarity, as a broad and diverse coalition of New Yorkers, with our law enforcement family. There is no space between law abiding New Yorkers and the men and women who are responsible for protecting New York City. Violence only begets violence.”

The 2014 shooting by Brinsley occured after a judge decided not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for placing Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold during an arrest for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes outside a beauty store in Staten Island, resulting in Garner’s death.

Before he killed the two officers, Brinsley wrote on his Instagram account, “I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today.”

Williams  was formally charged in Bronx criminal court with 14 counts of attempted murder. According to the New York Times, prosecutor Burim Namani said Williams had told investigators in videotaped interviews that he carried out the attacks because “he was tired of police officers.”

Among his other arrests, in November 2018, Williams was charged with possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and driving under the influence.

Both the Bronx and Brooklyn attacks occurred after anti-police protests. 

On Friday, Jan. 31, activists protested the increased police presence in New York City subways, and the targeting of non-white riders for low-level offenses. And in December 2014, protests took place following the ruling in the case of Daniel Pantaleo. 

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Words matter — they affect people’s actions,” tweeted Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “In the wake of anti-police rhetoric advocating violence against our protectors, we’re lucky recent attempts on cops’ lives failed. EVERYONE should speak out against such disgusting behavior.”

“It is a double miracle that we are not preparing for two funerals right now,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement. “These targeted attacks are exactly what we have warned against, again and again. The hatred and violence directed at cops continues to grow. Good luck and kind words are not enough to keep police officers or the public safe. Our elected officials need to start listening to us and working with us — not against us — to fix the deteriorating environment on our streets.”

Lynch expressed a similar sentiment following the deaths of Ramos and Liu more than five years ago.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight — those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day,” he said in 2014 outside Woodhull Hospital.

Other local elected officials have chimed in on the more recent shooting.

“What happened in the Bronx this weekend wasn’t an altercation or a crime interrupted,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan on Monday, Feb. 10 at a conference at 1 Police Plaza. “This wasn’t an armed robbery gone wrong. These were premeditated assassination attempts on New York City cops … If our own cops aren’t safe on the streets of New York City then none of us are safe. Period.”

“NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea is correct when he points blame at those who promote and incite violence against our police,” said New York State Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. “It’s time for the law-abiding citizens of the Empire State to send a crystal clear message to Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature that enough is enough.”

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