HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — A gunman killed a 22-year-old NYPD officer and seriously injured another during an ambush-style shooting inside a Harlem apartment Friday night, officials said.
The NYPD identified the officer who was fatally shot as Jason Rivera. The officer who was critically injured was identified as Wilbert Mora. Mayor Eric Adams on Saturday ordered all flags at New York City buildings to be lowered to half-staff in Rivera’s honor, according to his press secretary.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell expressed outrage and sorrow at the loss of the rookie cop, who she described as a “son, husband, officer, and friend.” Sewell, who took the helm of the NYPD earlier this month, said “countless officers” lined the hallways of Harlem Hospital Friday night to grieve for Rivera and pray for Mora, who was fighting for his life.
“I am not sure what words, if any, will carry the weight of this moment and what we are feeling,” Sewell said.
Rivera joined the NYPD in November 2020. He was assigned to the 32nd Precinct in Harlem. Mora, 27, has been with the NYPD for four years.
In a letter written to his commanding officer at the police academy, obtained by PIX11 News on Saturday, Rivera wrote he wanted to become an NYPD officer to improve the department’s relationships with the communities it serves.
“Growing up in New York City, I realized how impactful my role as a police officer would [be] in this chaotic city of about 10 million people,” Rivera wrote in the letter. “I know that something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue, will put a smile on someone’s face.”
Rivera also described an experience being pulled over in a taxi and seeing his brother frisked by police. He said it “bothered” him and negatively shaped his view of police as a child, but over time he realized the NYPD was pushing for change — something he wanted to be a part of.
“I saw the NYPD pushing hard on changing the relationship between the police and the community,” he wrote. “This was when I realized that I wanted to be a part of the men in blue; better the relationship between community and police.”
Rivera, Mora and a third unidentified officer responded to the apartment on 135th Street after a call came in from a woman needing help with her son, identified by police as Lashawn McNeil, 47. Commissioner Sewell said McNeil “unexpectedly” opened fire after officers “compassionately tried to help him” during the incident.
Authorities said the officers spoke with the woman and another son, but there was no mention of a weapon. Then two of them walked from the front of the apartment down a narrow, 30-foot hallway. NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said that’s when McNeil swung open a bedroom door and opened fire at the officers, striking them.
As McNeil tried to flee, the third officer who’d stayed with McNeil’s mother in the front of the apartment shot at McNeil and wounded him in the head and arm, Essig said. McNeil is alive and hospitalized in critical condition, an NYPD spokesperson said, correcting earlier reports that he had been killed.
PBA union President Patrick Lynch said in a statement on Saturday that while New Yorkers will come to know more about Rivera and Mora in the coming days, what they’ll quickly realize is that they already know them. Lynch asked New Yorkers to join in the department’s mourning of Rivera and to pray for Mora’s recovery.
“They are your husbands, fathers, and brothers. They are your neighbors. They walked these city streets beside you. They shared the same dreams and the same worries that you have,” Lynch said. “That’s why they took an oath and pinned on a New York City police officer’s shield — not because they were different, but because they could see themselves in you. They knew that, unfortunately, there is still evil in our city, an evil that too many won’t even acknowledge. They wanted to protect you from that evil.”
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said Rivera was a Manhattanite who lived in Inwood. He expressed his condolences to Rivera’s family and called for an end to gun violence.
“I have a 22-year old son. I am at a total loss thinking about what the Rivera and Mora families are going through. I am praying that they find strength and solace amidst the shattering pain. These officers were responding to a call for help to protect their fellow New Yorkers. They are heroes and my heart breaks for their families, for the 32nd Precinct, and for their brave fellow officers at the NYPD,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
This story comprises reporting from PIX11’s Sarah Vasile, Mary Murphy and The Associated Press.