Several police officers were shot in the Bronx over the weekend in what’s being called an ambush specifically targeting law enforcement. Elected officials sent prayers to the officers’ families and condemned the shootings.
But some members of law enforcement want those politicians, specifically the mayor, to take his prayers and shove it.
Bronx resident Robert Williams, 45, walked into the 41st Precinct in the Hunts Points/Longwood area and opened fire on officers Sunday morning. His bullets struck Lt. Jose Gautreaux. Surveillance video showed Williams dropping his gun, laying on the ground and waiting to be apprehended by the police (the NYPD suspended the cops, Brian Wilkens and Paul Brauer, who leaked the surveillance footage).
However, 12 hours before the precinct shooting, Williams ambushed two cops sitting in a marked police van in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, shooting Officer Paul Stroffolino in the neck. Both cops survived. Williams pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of attempted murder in the first degree and 14 counts of attempted murder in the second degree, 4 counts of criminal weapons possession and 14 counts of attempted assault. Williams has a criminal history that includes a gunfight with police officers in 2002.
Elected officials were quick to denounce the attacks and Williams himself.
“Our city is united against hateful attacks on our police officers,” stated Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Twitter. “Standing this morning with Mayor de Blasio, NYPD leadership, hospital staff & elected officials today to update public on 2 assassination attempts against NYPD officers this morning and last night in the Bronx.”
“These officers handled such a horrific situation with heroism, with extraordinary skill. Thank God that each and every one of them will be okay,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio during a media briefing on Sunday.
“No one should ever feel comfortable enough to walk up to another human being—police officer or civilian—and open fire,” said New York City Council Member Farah Louis in a statement.
While declaring that people should be careful what they say, recently appointed NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea opined “words matter” and called the shooting an “assassination” attempt on cops and blamed it on anti-police sentiment from certain groups around the city. But the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association took it another step further on social media.
“Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you! We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals,” read the SBA’s Twitter page. “You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. This isn’t over, Game on!”
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said that while he offers prayers to the families of the officers and condemns the “senseless” act of violence, he believes it’s a time to come together and not do the opposite.
“When someone loses their life to gun violence, the pain is the same for the families of officers and those they serve alike; thankfully, the officers shot this weekend survived, but the impact is still felt,” stated Jumaane Williams. “Now is a leadership moment to unify—not inflame tensions, and we shouldn’t listen to those who do.”
A spokesperson for de Blasio said that SBA President Ed Mullins’ comments violate the bond officers struggle to form with communities around the city.
“Ed Mullins’ comments are absolutely reprehensible. He clearly has forgotten his oath to protect and serve,” said the mayor’s spokesperson. “While he threatens violence, the mayor remains focused on the safety of our officers and communities.”
While speaking to reporters in Albany on Monday, the mayor commented, “I have to say it’s sad when someone feels they can be openly divisive and get away with it. I think there should be consequences for that kind of speech.”
This isn’t the first time Mullins’ actions were met with significant blowback.
Last year, the SBA emailed a video, signed off by Mullins, to its members (and to the New York Post) of a police shooting that took place in Los Angeles. The video included a narrator stating that an important detail of working in an “urban environment” is that most people don’t have jobs. The video, which is 15 minutes long, also makes references to “welfare queens” and “Section 8 scam artists.” In a reference to former President Barack Obama, the narrator stated, “A presidential administration succeeded in forever vilifying its nation’s police while simultaneously granting blacks crime as their new entitlement.”
Mullins eventually apologized to multiple media outlets for sharing the video, stating that he watched it without the audio and obtained the video from a retired sergeant whom he believed to be in good standing on the force.
Activist Josmar Trujillo said Mullins’ actions are a symptom of a bigger problem that can be found at City Hall.
“SBA President Eddie Mullens’ [sic] usual antics, while easy to ridicule, are not the real threat,” Trujillo said in a statement. “That the Mayor and Police Commissioner are, in their official remarks, blaming protests, is the much bigger threat. They, like Mullens, are politicizing the moment, in a much more dangerous way. In fact, the Mayor, PC and police union leaders seem to have a shared goal of rolling back reforms of New York’s racist, medieval bail system.”
Brooklyn Borough President, and former cop, Eric Adams also referred to the shooting as an assassination attempt on symbols of public safety in the five boroughs.
“We must not dismantle the things that were instrumental in making New York the safest big city in the U.S. At the same time, I have always spoken out against the overuse of certain policing tactics when I felt that it did not advance the mission of making our city safer, which is why I objected to the abuse of stop and frisk under Mayor Bloomberg,” said Adams in a statement.
According to Assistant District Attorney Burim Namani, Williams told police officers—while lying in his hospital bed—that he planned on shooting more cops if he’s released. The NYPD has decried the implementation of bail reform blaming it for multiple crimes committed around the city despite the crimes having no connection to the new law of the land. But none of that matters to people like Trujillo. He said that his focus remains on City Hall and its failures.
“This should be the final, disgraceful straw for Bill de Blasio’s criminal justice legacy. One now has even an increase in stop and frisks, which he all but promised were a thing of the past,” said Trujillo.