Robert Williams, a paroled attempted murderer, was named as the suspect accused of trying to assassinate two New York City police officers as they sat in a marked police van, according to NBC New York.
In an update, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that the suspect is also accused of storming into a Precinct and shooting another police officer a few hours later. “For the second time in less than 12 hours, the members of the New York Police Department have been targeted specifically and shot in attempts to murder the very people who work so hard day and night to keep the people of this city safe,” Shea said.
He called the suspect a “coward” who is now in police custody, adding, “We are confident he is the same person who attempted to assassinate our police officers last night.”
“This harkens back to some very bad times… this is something that should outrage, and I know it does, all New Yorkers,” Shea said in an initial news conference, mentioning other officers who were assassinated in New York City over the years. In this case, one of the officers in the van was shot but is expected to survive.
Just hours after the first shooting, Williams is accused of walking into the 41st Precinct building in the Bronx around 8 a.m. and opened fire, shooting a second police officer. The second officer is also expected to recover, according to ABC 7. Dramatic surveillance video emerged of the second shooting, which you can watch later in this article.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Commissioner Called the First Shooting an ‘Assassination Attempt’
The police commissioner and mayor didn’t mince words when talking about the first shooting into the marked police van. They called it an attempted assassination.
The commissioner said in the initial press conference: “Three hours ago, an uniformed police officer sitting in a marked police van in the confines of the 41st Precinct was shot and wounded. By the grace of God we are talking about an officer who will be going home. This was an assassination attempt of two city police officers.”
The mayor said of the officer shot in the van: “Thank God he is going to be ok…This was an attempt to assassinate police officers. Out in the open, an individual walked up to a police van with the intention of killing police officers.”
He added: “There is too much hatred out there right now, too much hatred in general and too much hatred directed at our officers and it has to end. Thank God they will go home to their families. This is something very different, and we have to stop it.”
In a later news conference, Mayor Bill DeBlasio said the shootings were premeditated and an attack on a “Democratic society.”
“Thank God our officers are alive,” he said. “…What should have been a quiet time and suddenly an assailant arrives with the intention of assassinating police officers and opens fire. These officers handled such a horrific situation with heroism, with extraordinary skill.”
2. Videos Captured Both Shooting Scenes
Dramatic surveillance videos captured the scene of the first police officer shooting (see above) and also the second, which occurred inside the precinct. This video shows the chaos after the second shooting erupted:
The site Real Buffing News also shared a second video on Twitter.
The site wrote: “Breaking: Bronx: Watch the Suspect entering the @NYPD41Pct, shooting the Lieutenants at the 2nd shooting in the #Bronx $Longwood #LongwoodBronx #Breaking #NYPD.”
3. Williams Has a Criminal History for Attempted Murder, Police Say
Shea said Williams has a lengthy, violent criminal history. He was paroled in 2017 for an incident in which an individual in the Bronx was shot and a subsequent carjacking of a female ensued, and then a crash of a car where he engaged in a gunfight with members of the New York City police department. That was in 2012. He was convicted of attempted murder and paroled in 2017.
The New York Post, which is also now naming Williams as the suspect, reported that has a record including arrests for “homicide and gun possession,” and “just got out for a machine gun charge.”
Police believe the suspect asked for directions before suddenly opening fire and shooting at the police officers in the first incident.
Commissioner Shea said that uniformed police officers sitting in the marked police van with its emergency lights activated were in the 41st precinct “to keep residents safe because of recent drug activity as well as violence in the area.”
He added that they were “shot by a man who first engaged the officer and his partner in conversation” and they were “assigned to the drug prone area…recently because of the violence, shots fired in the area.”
Around 8:28 p.m. on February 8, a male approached the two officers sitting in the marked van. asking them for directions and pulling out a gun “without provocation,” said Shea.
4. The Driver of the Police Van Was Shot in the Face
According to Shea, when the suspect pulled out the gun, the officer operating the marked van yelled “gun” and tried to put the vehicle into drive to pull away from the scene. “Multiple shots were fired by the perpetrator at close proximity into the van,” he said. “At least one, possibly two, shots struck the operator of the van.”
One bullet struck the officer in the chin and one struck him in the neck “narrowly missing the carotid region and it’s a miracle we are not here under worse circumstances,” said the police commissioner.
Neither of the officers returned fire. “The investigation is extremely active at this point, and we have a description of a male 20-30 years of age with a black jacket in that area,” he said in the initial news conference.
Pat Lynch, the President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York, said in the news conference that the shooting “shows how dangerous the streets can be for New York City police officers. Fortunately these police officers were vigilant, they were awake, they were ready and were able to avoid a tragedy.”
He added: “Don’t take lightly the words, an attempted assassination.” He called on elected officials to “now recognize how dangerous the streets are and start working with us to make sure people like this don’t walk our streets. We hope the courts have the laws that allow them to make sure we get justice.”
Shea said a bullet also struck a door jam on the driver’s side. “They were there to protect the residents of that block,” he added of the officers.
The two officers have known each other since roughly middle school.
5. The Second Shooting Occurred Within 12 Hours of the First
Within 12 hours later, a second police officer was shot, inside the 41st Precinct station house.
NBC New York reported that, after shooting an officer, the suspect put the gun on the ground and surrendered.
The second officer is in stable condition.
Shea said a man walked into the precinct station house. Captured on video, he immediately pulled out a gun and fired “multiple rounds towards the desk area” where several uniformed officers were present. He then walked into an area beside that desk and fired several more rounds. A male lieutenant was shot one time through his upper arm. He returned fire, but the suspect was not struck.
The suspect only gave up after he ran out of bullets, Shea said.
READ NEXT: The Initial Report on the First Shooting.