New York Daily News

September 22, 2014


 

Rookie NYPD cop killed, 8 officers injured as patrol van crashes in Bronx


Officer Michael Williams, 25, was in the van heading toward the UN for security detail when it struck a center divide at 5:03 a.m., police said. Cops are investigating if early rain showers played a part in the crash.

BY CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS , CAITLIN NOLAN , EDGAR SANDOVAL , STEPHEN REX BROWN

   
Michael Williams, 25, died after a patrol van crashed early Sunday morning.  
 
RICHARD HARBUS FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS  
Michael Williams, Jr., when he was a sherriff for Dutchess County, stands with his father, Michael, Sr., an NYPD officer.  
 
DARRYL BAUTISTA/POUGHKEEPSIE JOURNA  
Michael Williams (l) during a basketball game he played when younger.  

He wanted to be a police offer just like his father — but a tragic crash killed him after only nine months on the beat.

A rookie police officer died Sunday morning when an NYPD van bound for the United Nations slammed into a barrier in the Bronx, ejecting him onto the pavement, police said.

Michael Williams, 25, who had only joined the force in January, died in the 5:03 a.m. crash, NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks said.

Eight other officers in the van were injured.

Williams had followed in the footsteps of his father who has worked for the Carmel Police Department upstate for 32 years.

“Williams’ dream was to be an NYPD officer. He came from a police family. This is what he wanted to do with his life,” said Mayor de Blasio, speaking outside the 47th Precinct stationhouse in Williamsbridge where the fallen cop worked.

“We're all in a lot of pain today to lose a good young man who was just starting out.”

Banks said police were examining whether heavy early morning showers were to blame for the tragic crash but would not elaborate on a possible cause, citing the ongoing investigation.

The officers were en route to two security details — one for Sunday’s massive rally regarding climate change, the second for the U.N. General Assembly. 

The van was heading west on Bruckner Blvd. when the driver changed lanes, lost control and struck the center divide in Hunts Point under the Sheridan Expressway, Banks said, scraping along the barrier for one block.

Williams — an accomplished basketball player who played for Keene State College in New Hampshire — relished the challenges of making a difference in the rough and tumble neighborhoods in the north Bronx.

“He was assigned here to a tough precinct. A precinct where there is a lot of work needed,” de Blasio said. “He was part of the team that was turning things around. I know that was a source of pride.”

The mayor added he’d spoken at Williams’ graduation from police academy at Madison Square Garden mere months ago.

Just before noon Williams’ casket, draped in an NYPD flag, was loaded into a police truck at the hospital. More than 75 cops gave a solemn, silent salute. Williams’ grieving parents exited shortly after and got into a highway patrol cruiser.

SAM COSTANZA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A police patrol van was heading south down Bruckner Blvd when it struck a center divide.
SAM COSTANZA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Authorities on the scene of the fatal crash.

“This tragedy has even more meaning for them,” said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. “His father has probably seen it all, but he never expected to see something like this involving his own son.”

Williams’s uncles — who are also longtime cops in Carmel — anxiously awaited the return of the father and his wife, Joan, at the couple’s home in upstate Poughquag.

“My sister’s a wreck. That’s not the way you expect your son to go,” Tommy Johanson, 50, said.

“Michael (Sr.) doesn't usually say too much, but he hasn't talked at all. We’re worried about him. The kid fought hard for everything he got.”

Uncle Gary Johanson, 60, was in shock.

“There hasn't been a tragedy in our family like this. This is uncharted waters for us. So little Mike getting killed like this is beyond belief,” Johanson said.

“He was a good kid, great athlete all the way around. This is a nightmare for us.”

Indeed, Williams’ high school basketball coach, Matthew Hoyt, 35, said that the fallen cop had made the varsity team as a sophomore.

RICHARD HARBUS/NEW YORK DAILY NEW
"This morning they woke up to do a job that's important: to protect people's right to protest," Patrick Lynch (c) of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association said. (See more photos at the end of this article.)

“We don't have many players who do that. From that class he was the only one,” Hoyt said.

“His parents, they didn't miss anything. They went to all of his games. He was a great, great kid. I was lucky to coach him. I still can't believe it.”

Williams had served as a Duchess County Sheriff’s Deputy before joining the force. He had only recently moved to the Bronx.

“He was just a great kid and he worked very hard at everything he wanted to achieve,” Karen Fransen, his heartbroken aunt, said.

“He was looking forward to a long career and it was just cut very short.”

Williams’ cousin, Brandon Johanson, 33, said Williams had achieved a lifelong goal by joining the force.

“For as long as career options were being talked about, Mike wanted to be a cop,” Johanson said.

“He was proud to be an officer of the law...He went to the NYPD because he wanted to carve out his own way, a fresh start, you know? And he was doing it.”

Emergency responders transported four other officers to Lincoln Medical Center, two to St. Barnabas Hospital and two to Jacobi Hospital, fire officials said.

Six were treated and released. Two of the cops, Wesly Taveres, 25, and Francine Devalle, 29, were to stay overnight at Lincoln Medical.

All eight were expected to make a full recovery.

“They were driving to the United Nations. The next thing she knows the impact and she just remembers everyone screaming,” said Francine’s cousin, Kenia, 23.

“She's devastated by the fact that he passed away and everyone else survived.”

With Ryan Sit and Erin Durkin

cnolan@nydailynews.com

MICHAEL SCHWARTZ FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The casket of Officer Michael Williams is seen draped in an NYPD flag.
MICHAEL SCHWARTZ FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Family of the deceased officer arrive at Lincoln Hospital today.
MICHAEL SCHWARTZ FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Family members leave Lincoln Hospital as police offiers offer a salute for the fallen Michael Williams.
MICHAEL SCHWARTZ FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton speak after the death of Police Officer Michael Williams.
RICHARD HARBUS/NEW YORK DAILY NEW
An NYPD officer who was killed after an earlier accident is taken away in an ambulance as officers salute at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.
RICHARD HARBUS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A crowd stands by as officers salute the fallen officer.
RICHARD HARBUS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Eight other officers were injured in the incident.
MICHAEL SCHWARTZ FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The 47th Precinct, where Michael Williams worked, seen on Sunday.