- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The suspect in the fatal shooting of a New York police officer was only on the street because he was not sent to jail earlier this year for dealing crack as part of a diversion program for drug offenders.

Tyrone Howard, 30, had a lengthy rap sheet featuring 28 arrests since age 13 when he pleaded guilty again in May to selling crack at an East Harlem public-housing complex. He was sentenced to two years in jail but rather than being sent behind bars, he was ordered into an outpatient drug-rehabilitation program for that period.

The diversion program is designed to reduce overcrowding in the city’s jails, and courts in New York and across the country are increasingly turning to rehabilitation and treatment options rather than incarceration for drug offenses.

The fatal shooting of Officer Randolph Holder is “a vivid and tragic reminder that there are some people that have to be in prison,” Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters Wednesday.

But a spokesman for the New York state court system said that Howard was an addict and thus should not be in jail for drug offenses.



“Actually, he’s the perfect candidate in many ways” for diversion programs, state court system spokesman David Bookstaver told The Associated Press in an interview.

According to the New York Daily News, Howard’s lawyer won a spot in the diversion program with a letter saying a prison term would have been a hardship for the criminal’s common-law wife and two children.

Howard’s rehabilitation sentence was signed off on, though not originated by, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Patricia Nunez, the New York Post reported.

Police arrested Howard on Tuesday night, wounded from the gun battle that killed Officer Holder. He was released from hospital into police custody Wednesday and is expected to be charged with murder in Officer Holder’s death.

Unsurprisingly, police disagreed Wednesday about whether Howard should have been on the streets, saying he was an increasingly violent career criminal who already was wanted in another shooting.

“If ever there was a candidate not to be diverted, it would be this guy,” Commissioner Bratton said. 

According to NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill, Howard was wanted in connection with a gang-related shooting in Manhattan in September but police couldn’t find him for arrest — even though he was on supervised release for two years. 

Howard didn’t show up for status meetings and would not be home when investigators made repeated efforts to find him there.

An arrest warrant was issued for Howard on Sept. 21.

Howard’s long criminal record included two terms in state prison since 2007 on drug-related charges. He also was arrested in connection with a 2009 shooting, but the AP said the disposition of that case was unclear.

Officer Holder, a 33-year-old native of Guyana, became the second New York cop this year, and the fourth in 12 months, to die in the line of duty. There will be a service in New York and police from all over the nation are expected to attend, but the officer’s body will then be buried in Guyana.

He was shot in the forehead after an 18-block chase down FDR Drive, from East 102nd Street to 120th Street, in response to a call about gunfire between two rival gangs. The five-year veteran had been assigned as a plainclothes officer to the NYPD’s Housing Bureau, which patrols public-housing projects.

All city and state buildings and many other structures throughout New York flew flags at half-staff Wednesday.

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