March 13, 2017
By MARK TOOR
It took four days of deliberations, but a jury last week convicted drug-dealer Tyrone Howard of first-degree murder in the October 2015 shooting death of Police Officer Randolph Holder.
Mr. Howard, 32, was on a stolen bicycle, fleeing the scene of a shooting in an East Harlem housing project, when he encountered Officer Holder, 33, and his partner, Omar Wallace, on a footbridge on East 120th St. The cops, who were in plainclothes but displaying their badges, were looking for people who were involved in the shooting.
‘Fired Shot, Holder Fell’
“We started to walk toward him, and he decided to pull a gun outside his sweater,” Officer Wallace testified at the trial. “He fired a shot, and that first shot hit Officer Holder in the right side of the head, and he fell immediately.”
Officer Wallace returned fire, wounding Mr. Howard in the buttocks. He was arrested four blocks away.
The jurors declined to explain why it took so long to reach a verdict, except to say that deliberations were slow and difficult.
“In a way it was like ‘Twelve Angry Men’ in reverse,” said Jane Ritter, a retired schoolteacher who was one of four jurors who wept when the verdict was read March 6 convicting Mr. Howard of murder, robbery and other charges.
“We respected the fact that we had differences in opinion,” said another juror.
PBA: Mixed Emotions
Outside the courtroom, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, thanked the jury and prosecutors. He praised Officer Holder’s family, noting that the slain officer’s father, a police officer in his native Guyana, had been a powerful role model for his son.
“You saw the jurors crying with their decision as they looked at the family,” he said. Although justice was done, he added, for the officer’s survivors “there is no closure. You just get used to the pain.”
PBA officials and dozens of police officers attended each day of deliberations as a show of support for Officer Holder, a five-year veteran who was posthumously promoted to Detective.
Mr. Howard faces a mandatory prison term of life without parole when he is sentenced April 3. He is no stranger to trouble, with five previous convictions for drug-dealing and one for armed robbery.
On Bail At Time
He was out on bail at the time of the shooting, but the NYPD had a warrant for his arrest because he had skipped out on a taking mandatory drug-treatment program imposed after a drug arrest in 2014. After he murdered Officer Holder, he was sentenced to 12 years in the drug case. If he had completed the drug-diversion program, he would have served no time.
The shooting set off a dispute pitting Mayor de Blasio and the Police Commissioner at the time, William J. Bratton, who said Mr. Howard’s inclusion in the diversion program was indefensible. The judges involved, Patricia Nunez and Edward McLaughlin, said that Mr. Howard was released because his girlfriend put up $35,000 bail, not because of the diversion program, and that his record did not show a previous arrest for violence.
Mr. Howard skipped some of the jury deliberations, preferring to remain in his cell and catch up on his sleep, according to prosecutors.