NYPD officer killed in Harlem wanted to ‘better the relationship’ with community

Northeast

HARLEM, Manhatten (NewsNation Now) — A gunman killed a New York police officer and seriously injured another during a shooting inside an apartment in Harlem Friday.

NewsNation affiliate PIX11 reports 22-year-old Jason Rivera was killed and 27-year-old Wilbert Mora was injured.

Talking to the press at a Harlem hospital, New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell said she struggled to find words to convey the tragedy. “We’re mourning, and we’re angry,” she said.

The shooting is the latest in a string of crimes that have unnerved the nation’s largest city.

Officers lined the hallways of Harlem Hospital Friday night to grieve for Rivera, who joined the force in November 2020, and to pray for Mora, who’d been on the force for four years, PIX11 reported.

What happened Friday night

Rivera, Mora and a third unidentified officer responded to a Harlem home to reports of a woman needing help with her son, who has been identified by police as 47-year-old Lashawn McNeil.

At the scene, officers questioned the woman and another son. Officials say Mora and Rivera then walked from the front of the apartment down a narrow hallway and McNeil allegedly opened a bedroom door and began shooting at the officers.

McNeil tried to flee, but the third officer shot and wounded the suspect in the head and arm. McNeil, who was arrested in 2002 for assaulting a police officer in Pennsylvania, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He had also previously been arrested in South Carolina for unlawfully carrying a pistol and was on probation for a 2003 drug conviction in New York City.

Patrick Lynch, president of New York City’s Police Benevolent Association, asked New Yorkers to join the department in mourning Rivera. Both Rivera and Mora are “your neighbors,” Lynch said.

“They walked these city streets beside you. They shared the same dreams and the same worries that you have,” Lynch said in the statement. “That’s why they took an oath and pinned on a New York City police officer’s shield — not because they were different, but because they could see themselves in you. They knew that, unfortunately, there is still evil in our city, an evil that too many won’t even acknowledge. They wanted to protect you from that evil.” 

The medical examiner ruled Rivera’s death a homicide on Saturday after an autopsy found he died from gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

Mora was still “fighting for his life” on Saturday, said Mayor Eric Adams. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, visited Mora and his family in the hospital and gave the wounded officer a blessing, according to a spokesman the archdiocese.

The man police say shot them, Lashawn J. McNeil, 47, also was critically wounded and hospitalized, authorities said. Police declined to comment later Saturday about the conditions of Mora and McNeil.

Friday’s shooting comes three nights after an officer was wounded in the leg in the Bronx during a struggle with a teenager, who also shot himself. On Staten Island Thursday, a narcotics detective was shot in the leg.

‘Better the relationship between the community and the police’

While still a probationary police officer, Rivera wrote to his commanding officer that he joined the force to make a difference in a “chaotic city.”

“I know that something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue, will put a smile on someone’s face,” Rivera, who came from an immigrant family, wrote.

Growing up, Rivera noticed a strained relationship with police in his community, which he detailed in a 2020 essay titled “Why I Became a Police Officer” that was obtained by the AP.

He recalled witnessing his brother being stopped and frisked.

“I asked myself, why are we being pulled over if we are in a taxi?” he wrote. “My perspective on police and the way they police really bothered me.”

Eventually, Rivera wrote that he noticed the department working to improve relationships, and decided he wanted to be a part of that.

‘We don’t make guns here’

According to police, the gun used in Friday night’s shooting was a .45-caliber Glock with a high-capacity magazine, capable of holding 40 extra rounds, that had been stolen in Baltimore in 2017.

Pointing out that there are no gun manufacturers in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams, who on his third week of the job, called on the federal government to do more to stop the flow of illegal guns into the city.

“We don’t make guns here,” he said outside of Harlem Hospital Friday night. “How are we removing thousands of guns off the street and they still find their way into New York City, in the hands of people who are killers?”

Adams held a gun violence roundtable in the Bronx Saturday afternoon and said it was one of many conversations he planned to have on the issue.

In Buffalo Saturday morning, Gov. Kathy Hochul echoed Adams’ stance on illegal gun ownership.

“We have to do more to fight the scourge of illegal guns on our streets,” she said. “It does not have to be this way. These guns, despite our tough laws here in the state of New York, and we’re proud of them, they’re coming in from other states. They’re flooding our streets.”

Hochul said funding for the gun interdiction effort has been tripled in this year’s state budget.

© 1998 - 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation

Elections 2022

More Elections 2022