EAST HARLEM — A gun found 20 feet below the surface of the Harlem River, near the scene where a police officer was killed, has been positively linked to the death of Officer Randolph Holder, sources told PIX11 News Monday.
Forensics connected the weapon to the crime but no DNA remained on the gun, which was in the water for days before divers retrieved it, that source said.
What would become a deadly encounter began about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20 as Holder and his partner, both in plainclothes, responded to reports of shots fired near East 102nd Street and First Avenue in East Harlem, NYPD said.
When they arrived, a man told him his bike was stolen at gunpoint by one of the individuals who witnesses spotted running along the footpath heading north on the FDR Drive, police said.
Holder and his partner encountered a man on a bicycle on that footpath near East 120th Street and that’s when shots rang out, Commissioner William Bratton said.
Deputy Chief William Aubry, the commander of Manhattan detectives, said the suspect dropped the bike and pulled out a gun, firing one shot that struck Holder, 33, in the forehead. The officer died hours later at a hospital.
Holder’s partner returned fire at the shooter who continued to run north along the footpath but was caught by responding officers. Howard had been shot in the leg during the exchange and was taken to a hospital for treatment — and into custody, police said.
‘Hardened criminal’ back in custody
Tyrone Howard, 30, of Manhattan, was arrested the next day and has been charged with murder, authorities said.
Howard had been sought since Sept. 1 in connection with a gang-related shooting, investigators. He came back on law enforcement’s radar after he alleged gunned down one of their own.
But even with their suspect in custody, police for days did not have the weapon — it had been tossed over the footpath’s edge and into the water below.
A portion of the FDR Drive was closed for nearly 12 hours after Holder was killed then periodically shut down in the following days as investigators combed the area — both by land and water — for the weapon. The gun was found Sunday at the bottom of the Harlem River, police said.
Who are these men?
Surveillance cameras captured three men walking in the area about the same time gunshots rang out, prompting the call that brought Holder and his partner to the scene.
Police released photos of the trio, saying they are wanted for questioning.
Investigators are still determining how or if the men were involved in the events of that night and whether they exchanged fire with Howard.
Calls for change
That Howard was free at all became a point of contention for city and community leaders who say the tragedy points to a larger problem.
“This week we learned the true cost in our bail system. No more New Yorker needs to pay the ultimate price. Our laws need to be fixed and fixed soon,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time.
de Blasio said he wants judges to consider whether defendants pose a threat to the public before setting bail or steering them into drug diversion programs. New York is one of three states that do not allow potential danger to factor into those decisions, the mayor's office said.
An officer remembered
Lauded as an "extraordinary individual" by the city's police commissioner, Holder joined the force in 2010 and worked in Police Service Area 5, where he patrolled the housing developments of East Harlem. He followed in the career paths of his father and grandfather, who both served as police officers in their native Guyana.
Holder's death marked the fourth time in less than a year that an NYPD officer was killed in the line of duty.
A public viewing of Holder's body is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. His funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon.