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Photo by Robert Stridiron
Photo by Robert Stridiron
Police officials lead a vigil in honor of Police Officer Edward Byrne in Jamaica on Feb. 26.

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.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill along with Deputy Commissioner Lawrence Byrne pay tribute to Police Officer Edward Byrne who was killed in the line of duty 30 years ago protecting a witness at the corner of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street in Queens. (Photo by Robert Stridiron)

Police Commissioner James O’Neill along with Deputy Commissioner Lawrence Byrne pay tribute to Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty 30 years ago protecting a witness at the corner of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street in Queens. (Photo by Robert Stridiron)

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.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O'Neill and other top NYPD officials renamed the corner of 168th Street and 91st Avenue in Jamaica in honor of Police Officer Edward Byrne. (photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O’Neill and other top NYPD officials renamed the corner of 168th Street and 91st Avenue in Jamaica in honor of Police Officer Edward Byrne. (Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

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.”

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