By Ivan Pereira
The officers gathered at the intersection of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street at 1 a.m. where Police Officer Edward R. Byrne was shot in the line of duty 20 years ago. Byrne, who at the time was 22, was killed by drug dealers in his patrol car guarding a resident who complained about drug activity in the area, according to the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which organized the event.”Those drug dealers were trying to send a message that, 'We will get you,' ” PBA President Pat Lynch said during the ceremony. “Well, the message changed that day. We did get them. We will keep them behind bars.”Lynch said the officer's death sparked a turnaround in southeast Queens as it led to more federal funding for police and the creation of the NYPD's Tactical Narcotics Teams. Both the community and the police worked together to crack down on drug dealers, clean out abandoned homes, and improve the neighborhood's safety.”Twenty years ago there were a bunch of abandoned buildings, and now there are beautiful townhouses. He made a sacrifice for the people of south Jamaica that definitely made dividends,” said PBA spokesman Al O'Leary.The ceremony included a bagpipe presentation and a wreath-laying ceremony. Retired police Capt. Ernie Naspretto was the master of ceremonies, and at the time of Byrne's death was Byrne's sergeant at the 103rd Precinct.Police later arrested and convicted gang leader Howard Mason for ordering the hit and the firebombing of the house where Byrne was guarding. He is currently in prison serving a life sentence.Four others were convicted for carrying out the murder and are all serving 25-years-to-life sentences.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.