One of five men convicted in the notorious 1980s murder of a rookie Queens police officer is out of prison now — and told the state Parole Board that he’s a former minor league ballplayer who in freedom hopes to find some way to be a baseball coach.
“I loved baseball. I wanted to be a real professional,” Scott Cobb, 60, said at his June 28 parole hearing, his eighth since he became eligible for parole.
Instead of becoming a ballplayer, Cobb spent most of his life in state prison for his involvement in the 1988 assassination of NYPD Officer Edward Byrne.
Three more men convicted in the case — David McClary, Todd Scott and Phillip Copeland — are still in state prison. Copeland is scheduled to go before the parole board next month.
The fifth man — notorious drug dealer Howard “Pappy” Mason — masterminded the killing. Mason, who orchestrated the hit from prison and fronted $8,000 to fund the deed meant to send a message to cops, is serving a federal life sentence in the crime.
Cobb, who was imprisoned for 35 years, claimed he never meant to become a hardened criminal, according to a heavily redacted transcript of his June 28 parole hearing the Daily News acquired from the State Department of Corrections through a Freedom of Information Law request.
“I wanted to play baseball and become a coach, which I still want to do when I get out,” Cobb said. “I want to be part of the community.”
Cobb was released from prison on Sept. 19, according to state corrections records. His parole had been granted in July.
“I don’t blame nobody,” Cobb told the Parole Board when asked how he got involved in Byrne’s murder. “I was young and stupid. I wanted to make some money and I got involved in this and it destroyed my whole life and everyone else’s life.
“My heart goes out to Officer Byrne’s family,” he added. “I know I can’t bring him back and I’m really sorry for what happened, and not because I got arrested, but I know it was wrong.”
Byrne, 22, was blasted in the head five times by while guarding the home of a witness to drug activity in Jamaica, Queens, on Feb. 26, 1988.
The witness under police guard, a Guyanese immigrant known only as Arjune, was to testify against Mason’s drug crew. Drug dealers had already firebombed Arjune’s home at 107th Ave. and Inwood St. when the department decided to post a cop in a squad car outside.
Testimony at the trial showed that vengeful dealers had driven by the home at least twice, but decided it would look weak to kill a female cop or a Black officer.
After the shooting, arriving officers found Byrne sitting upright in his cruiser, a folded copy of the Daily News and a portable AM-FM radio on the seat.
At his parole hearing, Cobb claimed he was playing for a minor league baseball team — he never identified which one — but “got caught up” in selling drugs in his Queens neighborhood and put baseball aside.
“That’s the life I chose,” he said. “I wanted to make some fast money. I made a lot of victims in my community.”
After a few years selling drugs on Queens street corners, Cobb was recruited to be the driver in Officer Byrne’s assassination plot.
“(He) wanted this officer killed,” Cobb said about the man who hired him for the job. The man’s name was redacted in the parole transcripts. “He didn’t say no name, but he said he wanted the officer that was in front of the house killed.”
Cobb and his co-conspirators were given their tasks in short order. Cobb was asked to drive the car and get rid of the murder weapon when the deed was completed.
“The media put it out, one time, saying that we had drawn straws, but that was just a straight lie,” Cobb said. “We didn’t draw no straws, but the media put it out that we drew straws.”
Everyone involved got into a “hooptie” — a clunker car — which Cobb drove to Arjune’s home in silence, Cobb remembered.
After dropping off the rest of the crew, Cobb went to a bar around the corner, he said.
“I told them when you all be done come get me, I’ll be right here,” he said. “It was so close, I could hear the gunshots.”
When his accomplices showed up, they all jumped back into the car and drove off.
“We all (were) like nervous talking,” he remembered. “(Someone was saying) ‘Damn, man you almost shot me!'”
After Cobb dropped his accomplices off at their destinations, “I took the gun and buried the gun,” before going home, he remembered.
Byrne’s death became known as a turning point in the NYPD’s war against drugs. The NYPD marks the anniversary of his death each year with a special service.
Cobb went on a shopping spree after getting paid for his role in the assassination plot.
But within a week, he was in custody, charged with murder.
His parole outraged Byrne’s family and NYPD union leaders.
“The Byrne family doesn’t want this assassin’s empty apology,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry said. “They want their son and brother back. The Parole Board has proven once again that it cares more about criminals than crime victims, that it has more respect for murderous drug dealers than hero police officers. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Hendry is asking New Yorkers to join the PBA in submitting petitions that would keep Copeland in prison. One can sign the petition at the PBA’s website.