See background at bottom of this release
Herman Bell, a cold-blooded and unrepentant Black Liberation Army assassin and domestic terrorist, who viciously killed two New York City police officers by shooting them in the back as they responded to a call for help, should be denied parole, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch and family members of the hero police officers said today.
Bell was one of three murderers who pumped 18 bullets into the backs of 28-year-old police officer Joseph Piagentini and 33-year-old police officer Waverly Jones on May 21, 1971 as they were responding to a call for help at the Colonial Park Houses at 159th Street and Harlem River Drive.
“I am joined here today by the families of police officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones who have been denied husbands and fathers because of Herman Bell’s unthinkably savage and cowardly crime,” Lynch said. “Herman Bell, in an act so despicable an inhuman that it defies description, took the wounded police officer Piagentini’s service revolver from his holster and continued shooting the officer even as he pleaded for mercy. Clearly, Herman Bell deserves no better treatment and should be denied parole today and forever. We are calling upon the State of New York to send a strong and undeniable message that you can cannot kill a police officer in New York State and expect to walk away a free man one day. Herman Bell and his partners in crime should remain in jail for the rest of their lives.”
Lynch and members of the Piagentini and Jones families were joined by a host of law enforcement organizations and retirees in presenting a petition with thousands of names who vehemently oppose the parole of the convicted and unrepentant cop killer.
At 10:35 p.m. on May 21, 1971, Police Officer Joseph Piagentini, 28, and his partner Waverly Jones, 33, were responding to a routine sick call at the Colonial Park Houses at 159th Street and the Harlem River Drive when they were gunned down from behind by a group of men who had been following them. They killed Officer Jones quickly with four gunshots and Officer Piagentini slowly and cruelly with 13 gunshots.
Each Police Officer left behind a wife and two children.
Then Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy called the shootings "deliberate, unprovoked and maniacal…the most vicious crime against policemen in this city in memory" and part of an "organized" campaign of violence against police officers. He branded the killers "madmen" and pledged that they would be brought to justice.
Detectives developed information that the group responsible for the killings was the Black Liberation Army, a loosely knit organization dedicated to killing police officers -- regardless of color -- and robbing banks to finance its activities. Police Officer Waverly Jones was African American.
The first break in the case came in San Francisco on August 28, 1971, a little more than three months after the assassinations, with the arrests of two men, Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington, both in their early 20s. They were arrested when they attempted to kill a San Francisco police officer with a machine gun.
At the end of 1971, five men, including these two, were indicted in the murder of Piagentini and Jones with their first trial ending in a hung jury in 1974. Bottom, Washington and a third defendant, Herman Bell, were convicted on murder charges on April 10, 1975. They were sentenced to 25 years to life.