Nearly 30 years after Police Officer Edward Byrne was assassinated on a South Jamaica street, the NYPD remains determined to keeping his memory alive.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill joined members of the 103rd Precinct and fellow officers, Byrne’s family and community activists at the corner of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street early on Sunday morning, Feb. 26, for a memorial ceremony honoring the rookie officer slain there 29 years ago that day.
Byrne was sitting in his patrol car outside the home of a resident who complained about drug activity at the location on the morning of Feb. 26, 1988. Just before 3:30 a.m., according to The New York Times, a gunman walked up to the car and shot Byrne multiple times in the head.
The murder stunned the entire city and country; then-President Ronald Reagan called Byrne’s family to express his condolences, and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush carried Byrne’s badge with him during his successful presidential campaign that year. Four suspects were arrested within a week of Byrne’s death, and later convicted of carrying out the murder.
Deputy Commissioner Larry Byrne, Edward’s brother, recalled that the execution “was meant by a violent imprisoned drug dealer to be an act of intimidation against the police and the criminal justice system.” Instead, the NYPD “responded swiftly and powerfully not just in solving the crime,” but also by making the city safer in the three decades that followed.
Commissioner Byrne spoke on behalf of his family and the NYPD in thanking all who continue to keep alive his brother’s memory, and remember the ultimate sacrifice he made.
“It was Eddie’s lifelong dream to be a police officer, to follow in the footsteps of our dad, who is a retired lieutenant,” he said. “When you come together each year, you not only help to honor his sacrifice, but also to keep his dream alive.”
O’Neill noted that the “New York City of 1988 was not a great place”; approximately 1,896 people, including Officer Byrne and six other cops, were murdered that year.
The steep drop in crime since then, O’Neill noted, was the result of the NYPD’s hard work and its cooperation with other law enforcement partners. In 2016, major crimes fell to an all-time low, as it was reported; just 335 homicides were reported, and there were fewer than 1,000 shootings for the first time since the city began keeping crime statistics.
“None of this happens by accident, the fact that homicides and overall shootings are down,” O’Neill said. “Anything that happens in this city, anything that makes this city better, is because of the men and women standing in front of me now. … [The state of crime in] New York of 2017 is because of you.”