New York Daily News

February 25, 2014


 

Cop-killer Herman Bell denied parole in murder of two NYPD officers in 1971 


The state Parole Board denied early release Tuesday to the former Black Liberation Army member who was fatally shot and killed two New York police officers at a Harlem housing project.

BY THOMAS TRACY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

    
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Herman Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life in the murder of two NYPD cops.

Cop killer Herman Bell is going to rot in prison for at least another two years.

The former Black Liberation Army member convicted of murdering two police officers at a Harlem housing project more than 30 years ago was denied his request for early release in a decision announced Tuesday.

“After a review of the record and interview, the panel has determined that, if released at this time, there is a reasonable probability that you would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law,” the state Parole Board wrote.

Bell, now 66, Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington ambushed police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones after luring them to the Colonial Park Houses (now the Rangel Houses) on W. 159th St. on a bogus 911 call back on May 21, 1971.

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 the officer’s own gun.

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

SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The three killers dispatched Officer Waverly Jones quickly, shooting him one in the head — but they took their time with Officer Joseph Piagentini, shooting him 22 times as he begged for his life.

Bell was arrested about a year later. All three suspects were convicted of the two murders and sentenced to 25 years to life in 1979.

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

During his interview with the Parole Board, Bell put his grisly crimes into historical context, saying that he was a quarterback at a California college when the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. drew him to the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army.

“I’m not trying in any way justify what has happened, by no means,” Bell said. “I’m young, I’m impressionable, and there’s a lot that I do not understand and I’m influenced by the temper at the times, and all of those things came together and it just ... I made some terrible mistakes.” 

The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association praised the parole board's decision.

“Bell's victims cannot be paroled from death, and Bell and his cop-killing partners should never be allowed to walk the streets as free men again," PBA President Pat Lynch said Tuesday. 

SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Slain Officer Joseph Piagentini's widow, Diane (R) and daughter, Mary, (C) joined forces in January with PBA President Pat Lynch to demand Herman Bell be denied parole.

Yet relatives of the slain cops were split on whether Bell should remain behind bars. 

Piagentini’s widow, Diane, demanded Bell remain incarcerated, especially since he admitted his role in the killings only last year.

“His sentence should start again upon his admission of guilt and continue on to the end of time," Piagentini said.

But Jones’ son Waverly Jones Jr. felt Bell should be released.

“I’m a little disappointed (by the Parole Board’s decision) but not shocked,” he said. “Nothing that Bell does is going to move the Parole Board unless there is an overwhelming push by the public to free him.”

“I was hoping that the Parole Board would look into it and realize that these men have indeed done their time and done everything the state sentenced them to do,” he said.

Bell won’t be up for parole again until February 2016. Bottom has a parole hearing in August. Washington died in prison.

ttracy@nydailynews.com