My Profile

My Profile

Change Password

August 18, 2023, 5:48 PM

Widow of NYC police officer Thomas Ruotolo says his murderer should stay in prison; urges NY Parole Board to deny release in 1984 Bronx slaying

By Rocco Parascandola

The widow of Bronx NYPD cop Thomas Ruotolo, murdered 39 years ago while investigating a stolen moped, said Friday her husband’s killer is right where he should be — behind bars — and should remain there for the rest of his life.

Mary Beth O’Neill testified before the state Parole Board in an attempt to prevent the release of 63-year-old George Agosto, who on Valentine’s Day 1984 shot Ruotolo in the head as the 30-year-old cop tried to question him at a gas station on E. 149th St. near Bruckner Blvd. in Mott Haven.

Agosto also shot Ruotolo’s partner, Officer Tanya Braithwaite, in the lower back. An off-duty officer, Hipolito Padilla, was struck in the stomach but managed to fire back, wounding the 24-year-old gunman.

A bystander identified in the Daily News as Edward M. Hughes of Lynbrook, L.I., said that after the gun fire, he ran to the shot officers’ police cruiser, grabbed the radio microphone, and yelled: “Who’s out there? Officer shot! Officer shot! Send some help!”

A dispatcher asked for the car’s location, and Hughes said he soon heard sirens heading to the scene.

When Agosto went to a hospital for treatment and would up arrested, police and elected officials were furious to learn of his criminal record.

Before Ruotolo’s murder, Agosto had been sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for manslaughter in a 1977 killing. He served five years and one month in that case and was released.

Agosto was arrested twice in 1983 — after he was paroled, and before he killed Ruotolo — for carrying a loaded gun and once for burglary.

Then-Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward said the 1983 arrests should have sent Agosto back to prison. “He should have had his parole revoked,” Ward said.

Instead, the gun charge was dropped, according to news reports at the time. Agosto spent four months behind bars in the burglary case, which was knocked down to a misdemeanor.

“Two months after that, on September 21, 1983, he was released from Riker’s Island,” Mary Beth O’Neill told the Parole Board on Friday.

“Five months later, on Valentine’s Day — he shot and killed my husband while on parole. And he wants to be paroled again?”

Agosto pleaded guilty to murder for killing Ruotolo and to attempted murder for wounding Braithwaite and Padilla. He was sentenced to life in prison, and required to serve 40 years before he became eligible for parole.

State records show Agosto is eligible for release on Jan. 1, 2024.

“I beg you not to disrespect my hero husband’s legacy,” O’Neill said. “I beg you to keep the city safe by refusing to let George Agosto continue his life of crime.”

Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said at a press conference after the board hearing that no good can come from releasing a cop killer.

“This should be an open and shut case for the Parole Board,” Hendry said. “This career criminal is living proof that when you release a cold-blooded killer from prison he can and will kill again.”

Hendry noted that at the time the law did not allow for life without parole for cop killers and that since 2017, 36 cop killers have been paroled in New York state.

“Some of the most heinous assassins of New York City are now walking the streets,” Hendry said. “This doesn’t just affect the families of fallen officers — it’s dangerous for every New Yorker.”