New York Daily News

January 24, 2014


 

Slain cops’ families in Harlem killings split on whether killers should be paroled

Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom, two surviving convicts in prison for the 1971 murders of Patrolmen Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones, are up for parole. One cop’s family wants Bell in jail until ‘the end of time,’ the other’s says doing so ‘would only be for revenge.’

BY THOMAS TRACY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

 

Former Black Liberation Army member Herman Bell is up
for parole next month.

The families of two cops assassinated in a Harlem housing project in 1971 are divided on whether one of the three killers should be set free.

Former Black Liberation Army member Herman Bell — imprisoned since 1979 for the murders of officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones — is up for parole next month. Piagentini’s widow, Diane, 70, wants Bell, 66, in jail until “the end of time,” but Jones’ son said keeping Bell in prison “would only be for revenge.”

“This man has been in prison for over 30 years and hasn’t gotten into so much as an argument,” Waverly Jones Jr. said.

But Piagentini’s widow Diane, 70, said that because Bell didn’t confess to the killing until 2010, his prison sentence “should start again upon his admission of guilt and continue to the end of time.

SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Slain NYPD Patrolmen Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones.

Their widows are divided on whether the two surviving killers, one up for parole next month and the other in spring, should be freed.

In her letter to the parole board, Piagentini plans to recount the night she learned her husband had been killed.

“He was coming home at around 12 o’clock,” she recalled. “Our two daughters were in bed. One had just finished her bottle.”

The cop’s dinner – pasta fagioli — was sitting on the stove waiting for him on May 21, 1971, when a police car rolled up to her Deer Park home.

Then came the news: Her husband had been shot.

SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The daugher, Mary (left), and widow, Diane (right), of murdered NYC cop Joseph Piagentini, who was shot in 1971, hold news conference Thursday at the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

“Nobody really told me he was dead,” Piagentini said. “I thought he was still alive. When I got to Harlem Hospital, my father grabbed me and told he he had died.”

“They wouldn’t let me see his body right away,” she said. “That was very devastating.”

Earlier that night, Piagentini and Jones were ambushed by Bell, Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington. The three men shot the cops from behind after they responded to a bogus 911 call at the Colonial Park Houses (now the Rangel Houses) on W. 159th St.

Jones was shot in the head and died instantly, but the three suspects took their time with Piagentini — shooting him 22 times. At one point, Bell shot the cop with his own gun.

SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Lynch holds a sign with photos of Piagentini and Jones, as Piagentini's daughter Mary (center) and widow Diane (right) look on. Piagentini’s widow wants killer Herman Bell, 66, in jail until 'the end of time,' but Jones’ son said keeping Bell in prison 'would only be for revenge.'

Piagentini begged for his life before the end, telling Bell and his cohorts that he had a wife and two children at home.

All three were convicted of the two murders and sentenced to 25 years to life.

In 2009, Bell was implicated in the August, 1971 murder of a police officer in San Francisco and convicted of voluntary manslaughter, officials said.

New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said Bell confessed to curry favor with the parole board.

“(Bell and his accomplices) thought they were fighting for a cause, but they weren’t,” Lynch said. “They were murderers, plain and simple, that laid in wait to ambush police officers.

"If these mutts would kill a New York City police officer in full uniform on patrol, then they will and could kill you," Lynch added, making a public plea for New Yorkers to sign an online petition that could keep Bell and all cop killers behind bars at www. NYCPBA.org.

ttracy@nydailynews.com