Yesterday, the NYPD released letters,Police Commissioner Ray Kelly wrote to the New York State Parole Board, urging its members to deny parole for inmates Todd Scott, David McClary, Philip Copeland and Scott Cobb. All four criminals are eligible for parole in November.
In his appeal, Kelly outlined the death of the police officer, Edward Byrne. Byrne, a rookie cop in Jamaica, Queens’ 103rd precinct, was assigned on February 26, 1988 to guard the house of a witness. The witness, an immigrant named Arjune, was to testify in court against an imprisoned neighborhood drug dealer named Howard “Pappy” Mason. Arjune’s house had already been firebombed twice, and he’d faced multiple death threats.
Byrne was sitting in his cruiser on the corner of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street around 3:30 a.m. when the quartet quietly approached the car from the rear. Kelly wrote that Todd Scott knocked on the Byrne’s passenger window, causing the officer to turn his head, distracted. That’s when McClary approached the driver’s side window, shooting Byrne in the head five times. In their confessions, they revealed that Copeland planned the killing and Cobb drove the getaway car.
Mason, it turns out, arranged the murder. Byrne was pronounced dead at the hospital, five days after his 22nd birthday. The four had been planning the hit for two days before Byrne’s shift. One night, however, a woman was patrolling, and the next night, a black man. Scott, McClary, Copeland and Cobb walked away with a combined $8,000 reward.
The commissioner revealed that when the killers were arrested six days later, they spoke about the murder without showing any remorse, and in their taped confession spoke of standing outside of Byrne’s cruiser directly after shooting him and laughing. The week leading up to their apprehension, they openly bragged about the killing. Said Kelly: “I firmly believe that releasing any of them would be an affront to all New York City Police Officers and pose a significant risk to law enforcement personnel and members of the public.”
Byrne’s death served as a rallying cry to New York authorities and citizens, and it sparked the city’s crackdown on drugs. On the twentieth anniversary of his death, there was a parade for Byrne in Jamaica Queens in 2008. Mason is now imprisoned at a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 5, 2012