A 22-year-old rookie New York City police officer was killed and another officer critically wounded Friday night during what has become one of the most violent periods in the city's recent history.
Officer Jason Rivera -- who once wrote that he wanted to join the NYPD to “better the relationship between the community and the police" -- was ambushed with two other officers while responding to a domestic violence call in a Harlem apartment, authorities said.
The female caller had said she needed help with her son, city officials said during a solemn news conference at Harlem Hospital.
The mother “mentioned no injuries and no weapons” during the 6:15 p.m. call, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
She and another son met the officers when they arrived at the West 135th Street apartment off Lenox Avenue. She told them that her other son was in the back bedroom, the chief said.
As Rivera and Officer Wilbert Mora headed down a a "very tight" 30-foot hallway, the bedroom door swung open and 47-year-old ex-con Lashawn McNeil opened fire, Essig said.
The third officer, who was with the other family members, shot McNeil in the head and arm as he tried to flee, sending him to the hospital where the news conference ultimately was held.
Mora, 27, was there, as well, fighting for his life, the chief said. That made four city police officers shot in the line of duty in as many days.
“A son, husband, officer and friend was killed because he did what we asked him to do,” City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during the news conference. “I am struggling to find the words to express the tragedy that we’re enduring. We’re mourning and we’re angry — the NYPD, New York City, all of us."
The pain the officers' families are feeling "is not something anyone can put into words,” she said.
McNeil, whose last known address was in Allentown, PA, reportedly was on probation. He'd also been arrested several times in Pennsylvania, once for assaulting a police officer, Essig said.
No one could yet say how he got his hands on the Glock 45 -- equipped with a high-capacity magazine -- which the chief said had been reported stolen out of Baltimore four years ago.
“This was just not an attack on these brave officers," said Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain. "This was an attack on the city of New York.”
Rivera, who grew up in the Inwood section of Manhattan, had been on the job all of 15 months.
After he began, he wrote in a letter to his police academy commander that policing "was the career for me....Coming from an immigrant family, I will be the first to say that I am a member of the NYPD, the greatest police force in the world."
He said he also wanted to be part of what he saw as an effort by the NYPD to change its policies and improve community relations in "this chaotic city."
“Something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue will put a smile on someone’s face,” he wrote.
"Only 22 years old, Police Officer Jason Rivera was murdered in the line of duty," the NYPD wrote in a statement. "We vow to #NeverForget Jason as his fellow Finest vow to honor his tremendous legacy of service & the ultimate sacrifice.”
Police, firefighters and others lined the streets as a huge line of law enforcement vehicles escorted Rivera's body from the hospital to the city medical examiner's office.
Reaction to the senseless tragedy came from within and beyond Gotham.
"Tonight is one of the darkest nights in years," New Jersey State PBA President Patrick Colligan said. "The shooting of two NYPD officers tonight leaves us all shattered. One officer was killed another is fighting for his life.
"They left their homes, kissed their families goodbye and put on their uniforms to protect those they serve like all of us. We stand with our brothers and sisters of the NYPD in these most challenging hours. We will be shoulder to shoulder in the days ahead."
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