BY WILLIAM HARRIS
Staying true to its motto fidelis ad mortem (loyal unto death), the NYPD honored the memory of Police Officer Edward Byrne 30 years after he was murdered in Jamaica.
Just after midnight on Feb. 26, Police Commissioner James O’Neill and other high-ranking NYPD members gathered at the corner of Inwood Street and 107th Avenue for a vigil remembering Byrne, who was gunned down while guarding the home of a witness in a major narcotics case.
Later that day, police brass and Mayor Bill de Blasio went to the corner of 91st Avenue and 168th Street, adjacent to the 103rd Precinct stationhouse where Byrne had been assigned, for a ceremony renaming the intersection in Byrne’s honor.
At around 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 26, 1988, four men approached Byrne as he sat in a patrol car while guarding the witness’s home. Byrne was shot multiple times and killed. His killing sparked a wide array of anger in Queens, and the city intensified its efforts to fight violent crime. The four suspects were caught a week after Byrne’s killing and later convicted.
The mission is personal for the Byrne family. Officer Byrne had followed his father in the line of duty, who was a member of the NYPD for 22 years. Edward’s older brother, Lawrence, also joined the force after a long career as an attorney and later became deputy commissioner of the NYPD.
Thirty years since Byrne’s murder, police officials noted, the city’s a far safer place: Homicides are significantly lower today than they were over the last three decades. In 1990, there were a total of 2,245 homicides. In 2017, just 292 homicides were reported.
“That was a wakeup call for this whole city that it was time. It was time to no longer accept the violence that was so prevalent in New York City back in the ’70s and the ’80s,” O’Neill said.
In renaming the intersection for Byrne, de Blasio noted that the NYPD and the city alike have “a tremendous ability to remember its heroes.”
“We do that because we want to keep everything they stood for alive, we want to remember them as part of our commitment to their families, we want to remember them because they inspire us to something greater,” he said. “All of that can be said of Eddie Byrne whose life spoke so powerfully to us and whose death became a clarion call for change in this city.”