Updated November 15, 2015 8:20 PM

Tyrone Howard, accused killer of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder, pleads not guilty at arraignment


Tyrone Howard appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wed., Oct. 21, 2015  

The accused killer of an NYPD officer shot to death last month in East Harlem pleaded not guilty Tuesday to an aggravated murder charge in a lower-Manhattan courtroom packed with more than 100 police officers and the slain lawman's relatives.

Tyrone Howard, 31, is accused of shooting Officer Randolph Holder in the head on the night of Oct. 20. Police say Howard shot Holder after the officer and his partner, Omar Wallace, approached the ex-con, who they suspected took part in an earlier shooting and stole a bicycle at gunpoint.

Howard is charged with aggravated murder, first- and second-degree murder, robbery and criminal possession of a weapon. He faces life in prison if convicted.

At Howard's arraignment in New York State Supreme Court, he wore an orange jailhouse jumpsuit and walked with the help of a cane. Afterward, Howard's court-appointed attorney, Michael Horowitz, said he was confident his client will "receive a fair trial" but declined to comment further.

NYPD officers crowded into the courtroom along with Holder's father and other relatives.

Family members wore buttons containing Holder's photograph and several police officers attended the hearing clad in blue T-shirts honoring him.

He is the fourth NYPD officer shot dead on duty this year.

Outside the courthouse later, Patrick Lynch, president of the Policemen's Benevolent Association, called Holder -- posthumously promoted to detective -- "an ordinary hero, a person who went home to his family each and every day and came to work each and every day."

As Lynch spoke, Holder's father, Randolph Holder Sr., stood by silently. Lynch commended Randoph Holder Sr. for showing "restraint and courage" yesterday to "look eye-to-eye with the animal that killed his son." Holder, formerly a police officer in Guyana, declined to comment.

Howard shot the five-year veteran once in the head with a handgun after facing off with Holder and Wallace on a footbridge between the East River and the FDR Drive at 120th Street, police said. Wallace returned fire, hitting Howard in the leg.

Howard ran and tossed the handgun in the East River, the NYPD said. Police divers later found a Glock handgun NYPD officials said was used to kill Holder.

Howard spent time in a court-assigned drug-rehablitation program instead of a jail after his arrest in a drug-trafficking sting this year. Since age 13, Howard had accumulated 28 arrests, authorities said.

In a statement, District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Howard killed "one of New York's Finest. This prosecution will not bring back this brave public servant, but we hope, by seeking justice, it will bring a measure of comfort for Detective Holder's family, his colleagues in the NYPD, and the City as a whole."