NEW YORK (PIX11) – Scott Cobb, the getaway driver in the notorious “crack gang” execution of rookie NYPD officer Edward Byrne in 1988, was quietly released from prison after 34 years, according to a New York State Department of Corrections database.
Cobb, 60, was granted parole in July after spending most of his prison time in federal custody. He is the first of four men convicted in the murder of Byrne, 22, to earn his freedom.
“I just spoke to the Byrne family,” said Patrick Hendry, President of the Police Benevolent Association, “who never heard from the parole board on the official date of Cobb’s release. I can tell you the Byrne family is devastated by this news.”
The men were paid $8,000 to kill a cop. The brazen murder sent shockwaves through the NYPD, which was battling record homicide rates in the middle of a crack-cocaine epidemic that decimated NYCHA complexes and other low-income communities.
A federal raid six months after Byrne’s assassination took down the family crack empire of jailed Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols in South Jamaica, Queens. Agents even took Nichols’ mother and sister into custody.
Howard “Pappy” Mason, the drug enforcer who ordered the hit on a cop, was convicted in federal court. Mason was angry that he’d been arrested by police on a parole violation.
Cobb made a deal with federal authorities to testify against Mason in exchange for witness protection and the chance to do his time in federal custody.
Cobb infamously talked about Byrne’s execution in a video statement to police and prosecutors one week after the shocking crime. He said a co-defendant, Todd Scott, distracted the young officer by going up to the passenger side window of Byrne’s patrol car. Another member of the gang shot Byrne in the head multiple times at point-blank range.
Cobb simulated the sound in his statement, “Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!” and claimed one of the four men laughed.
One of Cobb’s friends testified at his trial that he drove her past Byrne’s patrol car two hours before the execution and said, “I am getting paid to kill a cop.”
When PIX11 News traveled to South Jamaica Tuesday, we met several residents who remembered the murder case.
“He did 34 years and all he did was drive the car. He didn’t kill the cop. He just drove the car,” one woman said.
Byrne was guarding the home of a witness whose house had been firebombed at 107th Avenue and Inwood Street in South Jamaica.
Officer Byrne’s brother, Larry, spoke at every parole hearing when the four men became eligible for freedom in 2012. Before one hearing in 2016, Larry Byrne said his father “died with the fear that these men would be released one day, and I’m determined to see that doesn’t happen.”
Larry Byrne died four years later in 2020, as parole commissioners sought to implement new protocol that would emphasize a person’s rehabilitation in the prison system instead of the crime they were convicted of.
Several dozen convicted cop killers have been released by the Parole Board in the last two decades.
PIX11 News had checked the state database on Tuesday morning after the Department of Corrections said it would need more time to process our Freedom of Information request, which seeks the minutes from Cobb’s parole hearing in July.
Jose Saldana, director of the RAPP Campaign, which stands for Release Aging People in Prison, responded to news of Cobb’s release:
“The purpose of parole is to evaluate people for release based on who they are today, not to extend sentences in perpetuity. Recent decisions the Parole Board has made based on this principle are the right ones–and bring us one step closer to justice. There is no doubt that many committed very serious crimes. We believe that all lives are precious and that the life of a teacher, a nurse, or a food delivery worker is no less valuable than the life of a police officer. A person who has taken any such life has caused tremendous harm that cannot be minimized. Yet, we also value redemption and human transformation. People can and do rehabilitate themselves and others around them every day. That is why we oppose permanent punishment.”