Oct 31, 2016
By RICHARD STEIER
|SPEAKING FOR SLAIN BROTHER: Deputy Police Commissioner for Legal Matters Lawrence Byrne, after urging the state Parole Board to keep his brother Eddie’s four killers behind bars, told reporters, ‘This was a premeditated assassination of a police officer because a violent drug-dealer had been sent back to prison.’ To his right is Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch; the uniformed cops behind them are members of the 103rd Precinct in Queens, where the slain officer worked at the time of his death in 1988.|
Deputy Police Commissioner who is the brother of an officer slain 28 years ago on the orders of a Queens drug-dealer appeared before the state Parole Board Oct. 28 to urge that it once again deny parole to the four men who carried out the execution while the young cop sat in his patrol car guarding the house of a witness in a drug case.
“This was a premeditated assassination of a police officer because a violent drug-dealer had been sent back to prison,” Lawrence Byrne, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters, told reporters following his victim-impact statement at the Parole Board hearing, which was closed to the media.
Five Shots Reverberated
There was nothing to indicate that the four killers knew that Mr. Byrne was sitting outside the South Jamaica home of a man known as Arjune on Feb. 26, 1988 because he was going to testify about a drug operation. They had been told by crack dealer Howard “Pappy” Mason to kill a cop in reprisal for his having been locked up again. They were paid $8,000.
The bullets fired by the four men—Mr. Mason’s lieutenant, Phillip Copeland, David McClary, Scott Cobb and Todd Scott—were “five shots that were heard around the world,” Mr. Byrne told reporters on West 40th St., just up the block from the Parole Board offices.
Mr. Mason allegedly described the act as sending a message that any law-enforcement action that took him or members of his crew off the street would be responded to by killing a cop.
“The message failed,” said Mr. Byrne, who at the time of his younger brother’s killing was a Federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan under Rudy Giuliani.
The killing of Officer Byrne sparked outrage and a stepped-up effort against drug gangs in Queens that had been using violence against cops and rivals alike in the battle over the local crack trade. Mr. Mason upon being convicted of contracting the murder and drug-dealing the following year was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His four underlings were each given 25-years-to-life behind bars.
Most Judge Could Punish
Queens Supreme Court Justice Thomas Demakos in sentencing them, Commissioner Byrne said, noted that it was the most-severe penalty he could impose under the law, and that his last judicial act would be to write to the Parole Board urging that the four men never be paroled. He made good on that pledge when he left the bench in 2012, Mr. Byrne said.
He previously appeared at parole hearings for them in 2012 and 2014, and said, “I’m gonna have to do this every two years and I’ll do it willingly.”
As he spoke, 16 officers from the 103rd Precinct where Edward Byrne had worked—the youth on the faces of some indicating they hadn’t yet been born at the time he was murdered—stood behind him and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch, who routinely attends parole-board hearings for cop-killers to dramatize the union’s belief that they should never be released.
Mr. Lynch noted that Edward Byrne had “followed in his father’s footsteps”—Matthew Byrne had retired from the NYPD as a Lieutenant prior to his son’s slaying. He spoke of “a family that’s forever changed…that had to live with this death each and every day. His father went to his grave with this worry on his mind. His mother still lives with it.”
The killing attracted national attention, particularly after Matthew Byrne gave then-Vice President George H.W. Bush his son’s badge, which he carried with him during his successful run for President later in 1988.
‘Shook City to Core’
“This murder was so shocking, it shook this city to the core,” Mr. Lynch said, because of the fact that unlike typical murders of police that were committed in the midst of other crimes or because of a personal beef, or had been done a decade or two earlier by violent radical groups, Mr. Byrne was targeted at random.
The PBA leader said the Parole Board should deny freedom to the four killers as a statement that “you did not get away with this cold-blooded murder.” When the board makes its decision sometime before the end of the year, he continued, it should “just say no: that they’ll never be set free on the streets to come up on another police officer” as they had ambushed Officer Byrne.
He urged members of the public to contact the board and oppose parole for the four men.
Mr. Byrne said their own past statements indicated they felt no remorse for what they did, claiming, “They still view this murder today as a great entry on their resume.”
‘Think About Him Daily’
“I think about my brother every day,” he said, noting that it would be hard not to, given that his office is at 1 Police Plaza.
“I see his name on the wall” among the other slain officers who are honored for their sacrifice inside Police Headquarters, Mr. Byrne said.