New York Daily News

February 4, 2004

Slain cop's kin urge release of one killer

By AUSTIN FENNER and BRIAN HARMON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Their father was slain in what has been labeled as one of the city's most heinous crimes against a cop.

But 33 years later, Waverly Jones Jr. and his sister Wanda have forgiven the three killers and now want authorities to set free one of the convicts.

The siblings - just tots when their dad, Waverly Jones Sr., 33, and his partner Joseph Piagentini, 28, were murdered in a 1971 ambush in Harlem - want the state parole board to grant Herman Bell's release from prison today.

"Even if he is responsible for my father's death, he should be let out. He's doing wonderful things," Wanda Jones, 34, said yesterday, noting that Bell has earned a master's degree in sociology and led humanitarian efforts while behind bars.

As far as the Patrolman's Benevolent Association is concerned, Bell "can continue doing wonderful things - in prison, until he dies," said spokesman Al O'Leary.

"He should never be allowed to walk the streets of New York or any other place," said Piagentini's widow, Diane.

Wanda and Waverly Jones Jr., 33, traveled from Richmond, Va., to spread their message of forgiveness. The siblings embraced Bell's son, Kamel Jacot-Bell, who also attended the news conference at the House of the Lord Church.

Bell, along with Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington, was convicted of double murder and sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars.

The officers had responded to a domestic abuse call at the Colonial Park Houses and were shot in the back as they returned to their squad car.

The killers were members of the Black Liberation Army, which took credit for the attack.

Washington died in prison in 2000 and Bottom's request for parole in 2002 was denied.

Bell, who maintains he is innocent, has his first parole board hearing today at the state's Eastern Correctional Facility in Napanoch, N.Y.

The parole board has been flooded with E-mails, letters and petitions both for and against Bell's release.

It remains unlikely that Bell will be set free; just 4% of prisoners up for parole are released after their first parole board hearing.