The police had gone looking for Tyrone Howard at least 10 times since Sept. 1, when, investigators believe, he rode up to a rival just after midnight and shot him. But 10 times he eluded them.
When officers finally did encounter Mr. Howard on Tuesday night, fleeing from the scene of another shooting in the same Upper Manhattan housing project, he was armed, the police said.
He was riding a stolen bike and concealing a .40-caliber handgun, the police said. As two plainclothes officers approached, he wheeled around, dropped the bike and fired one shot into the forehead of one of the officers, Randolph Holder, the police said.
“It was quick,” a senior police official said. “He swung around, on the bike path; he was on the bike and he just jumped off and ‘Boom.’ Quick. No words.”
Officer Holder’s partner, Omar Wallace, fired back, striking the assailant as he fled north along Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. He was arrested near 125th Street beside the churn of the darkened East River where, soon after, police divers recovered a .40-caliber magazine that had been tossed into the waterway.
The fatal shooting, the fourth of a New York City officer in 10 months, was an outgrowth of what officials called one of the city’s most intractable law enforcement challenges — the persistent violence stemming from so-called crews, small bands of young men often allied with a particular housing project or neighborhood and locked in frequently bloody rivalries
Mr. Howard, 30, who was charged on Wednesday with first-degree murder and robbery, was believed to be among those sowing violence across a pocket of East Harlem, several men whose images and gang affiliations hang in police precinct roll-call rooms and whose faces are known to anticrime unit officers, like Officer Holder, 33, whose assignment includes confronting the most violent criminals.
Indeed, one of the ways Mr. Howard knew the officer approaching him on a darkened pathway of F.D.R. Drive — besides by the silver shield dangling from his neck — was that they had encountered each other before, the police said. Mr. Howard had 23 arrests as an adult, including one in connection with a shootout in June 2009 on a basketball court in the East River Houses that wounded two bystanders: an 11-year-old boy and a 77-year-old man. (The case did not go forward, officials said, because prosecutors were unable to present any witnesses who could identify Mr. Howard.)
Although he was one of 19 defendants in a roundup of alleged crack-cocaine dealers last October in the East River Houses, where he lived, publicly available court records show no violent felony convictions in his history. The 2009 shooting was sealed, officials said. And, rather than jail, Justice Edward J. McLaughlin of State Supreme Court in Manhattan diverted his case in December to a special court where he was eventually ordered into drug treatment, a decision that both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton denounced on Wednesday.
SOURCE: AL BAKER and J. DAVID GOODMAN
The New York Times