An East Harlem drug dealer and addict also wanted in connection with the September shooting of an area gang member stands accused of killing a police officer in New York on Tuesday, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Wednesday. Charges against Tyrone Howard, 30, are pending.
Howard had been released into a drug diversion program after being arrested and charged with selling crack cocaine at an East Harlem public housing complex in October 2014. The program, the Associated Press reports, is intended to prevent the city’s jails from becoming overcrowded with drug offenders.
According to the AP, Howard pled guilty to the drug charge in May and was ordered to attend monthly status meetings. He stopped attending at the end of August, and a warrant for his arrest was issued on September 17th—he was wanted in connection with the September 1st shooting of an East Harlem gang member.
Bratton (unsurprisingly, perhaps) was critical of Howard’s release. “That’s a prime example of what we’re talking about—people that engage constantly in violence but we seem to have the hardest time trying to keep them in jail or prison,” the commissioner said, speaking at a news conference Wednesday with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “If ever there’s a candidate not to be diverted it would be this guy.”
“The perpetrator involved here was obviously a hardened, violent criminal who should not have been allowed on the streets,” the mayor said. “We can get those people off the streets and keep them in prison or some other institutional setting.”
But court officials disputed the claim that Howard—who only had two convictions (both for drug possession and sale charges) prior to his October arrest, in which he pled guilty—was not eligible for the diversion program. “He’s the perfect candidate in many ways,” a state court system spokesman, David Bookstaver, told the AP.
On Wednesday, Howard was released into police custody from the hospital where he’d been treated for a gunshot wound to the leg. Three men who were questioned last night were released.
Officer Randolph Holder was responding, in plainclothes, to reports of a gunfight between at least two rival gangs in East Harlem on Tuesday evening. A witness reported that he had had his bike stolen at gunpoint. From the New York Times:
As Officer Holder came across the footpath, he spotted a man on a bicycle.
Mr. Howard and Officer Holder converged at the base of the footpath, where it meets with the promenade, police officials said.
Mr. Howard was on the bicycle. Officer Holder was in plainclothes, with his shield around his neck.
A police official said Mr. Howard wheeled his bicycle down and took out his gun and fired one shot, hitting Officer Holder in the forehead.
“It was quick,” said the official. “He swung around, on the bike path; he was on the bike and he just jumped off and ‘Boom.’ Quick. No words. It was quick.”
Investigators have recovered shell casings from at least three guns; a loaded magazine from the East Harlem River; and one actual gun, the Times reports. They have not, however, recovered the weapon Howard allegedly used to shoot Holder.