January 27, 2014


No Parole Warranted

By Richard Steier

There are occasions in which someone involved in the murder of a police officer is given parole where there is an understandable rationale for the decision, whether you agree with it or not. The recent parole of Lillo Brancato would be an example—it was his fellow junkie who fired the gun that killed off-duty Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui, in a murder that was not premeditated but grew out of a botched burglary. Mr. Brancato had no gun with him, and was released after eight years in prison.

No such mitigating circumstances exist for two men now awaiting parole for the murders of Police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones 43 years ago.

Herman Bell and the man now known as Jalil Muntaquim lured the two cops into a trap they set with a phony distress call. They did this as members of the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panthers that unlike the Panthers did not offer social services along with angry rhetoric—it existed solely to wage war against law-enforcement by murdering those wearing badges.

Mr. Bell, during a recent parole hearing at which he finally admitted that he had pulled the trigger and ended Officer Piagentini’s life, compared his descent into this murderous act to a “snowball rolling down a hill.”

A snowball is an inanimate object. It can’t think, and it can’t choose. Mr. Bell and the man formerly known as Anthony Bottom were capable of thinking and choosing, however abysmally they performed those functions. They joined an organization with no socially redeeming features, then set up for death two cops whom they didn’t know and had nothing personal against except that, as Mr. Bell said, they considered the NYPD “an institution that was part of the oppression of the black community.”

Now, 40-plus years later, these men want to renounce the hateful code that led them to commit their foul act, and hope to gain their freedom in return.

They’re asking for a second chance that they made impossible for the slain cops and their families.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has a button on its website that allows visitors to click on their names to tell the Parole Board they oppose the release of the two killers. It should be used often.

They are guilty of a crime so severe that it demands that they never again breathe a free breath.