New York, NY – The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Sergeant’s Benevolent Association (SBA) has declared “war” on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio after a gunman attempted to murder multiple officers in two separate attacks over the weekend.
The shooter, later identified as 44-year-old Robert Williams, was previously convicted of attempted murder following a 2002 shootout with police, the New York Post reported.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Williams approached a marked NYPD van near Fox Street and East 163rd, according to the New York Post.
He asked the two officers for directions then opened fire on them, hitting 31-year-old NYPD Officer Paul Stroffolino in the chin and neck.
His partner, Officer Brian Hanlon, hit the accelerator, allowing them to escape further attack, WNBC reported.
Officer Stroffolino was rushed to a local hospital, and is expected to recover from his wounds.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said that the bullet narrowly missed the officer’s carotid artery, the New York Post reported.
At approximately 8 a.m. on Sunday, Williams stormed into the 41st Precinct station where the effort to locate him was being coordinated and opened fire, WNBC reported.
He was armed with a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, according to the New York Post.
NYPD Lieutenant Jose Gautreaux, who was hit in the arm by one of the gunman’s bullets, returned fire during the attack, but the shooter wasn’t hit, WNBC reported.
Williams tossed his gun to the floor and surrendered when he ran out of ammunition, according to the New York Post.
The wounded lieutenant is expected to recover.
“Police are being targeted. The anti cop tone infecting our city & state is causing bloodshed,” the SBA tweeted shortly after the second attack. “Before any public official sends their thoughts & prayers, they should ask themselves how the language & behavior they’ve been tolerating has contributed to violence against police.”
De Blasio took to Twitter with his thoughts within hours.
“It was a quiet Sunday morning when bullets started flying inside the 41st Precinct,” the mayor wrote. “Our officers handled it with heroism and extraordinary skill, showing the true caliber of the men and women who serve in the NYPD. Thank God our officers are alive.”
“This was a premeditated assassination attempt against New York’s Finest. It was also an attack on ALL New Yorkers and everything we believe in,” the mayor declared. “This MUST be a city where everyone can live in peace and respect. This individual attempted to destroy that. We will not let him win.”
The SBA subsequently declared “war” on the mayor in a scathing tweet.
“Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you!” the message read. “We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals. You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. This isn’t over, Game on!”
It is unclear how the SBA plans to proceed after making its declaration.
De Blasio’s soft-on-crime policies and growing tensions between the city’s police force and elected officials has been further exacerbated by anti-police protests, WNBC reported.
Officers have been repeatedly doused with water and attacked with bottles, bricks, food and other items for months.
“These things are not unrelated. We had people marching through the streets of New York City recently,” Commissioner Shea said, according to WNBC. “Words matter. And words affect people’s behavior.”
Despite his declarations that attacks on police are “not acceptable,” de Blasio has ushered in a slew of polices that critics believe have both “coddled and emboldened criminals.
NYPD Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Pat Lynch blasted city officials who have repeatedly stood before the community at press conferences to express how “lucky” and miraculous it was that no officers were killed in various attacks.
“Stop relying on luck!” Lynch told reporters. “Some of the same elected officials that were standing at that podium today are talking about how lucky we are…sometimes it’s their words that are causing this!”
“We talk about the protesters that are yelling, ‘we want dead cops,’” he continued. “Those words meant something, and people listen and they try to kill cops. But who’s leading them? Some of the elected officials that stand here today, nodding their heads…are the ones that are leading those crowds…putting the words in those protesters’ mouths. Well, now it’s real.”
Lynch said that the attacks on police shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“We’ve been warning about this since 2012. We warned about it in 2014 and we were ignored and two cops were killed,” told WNBC. “We warned it the other day, and what happened? [In a] twelve-hour time period, we’re here in Lincoln Hospital twice because police officers were almost assassinated.”
Lynch noted that it was the officers’ skills – not luck – that saved them from being killed.
“They weren’t lucky – they were fast!” he said. “That’s not lucky – that’s skill!”
The union leader implored city officals to start supporting police instead of just nodding their heads during press conferences after officers are shot.
“Start backing our police officers. Our elected officials that stand and nod with us, it’s time to open your mouth and say ‘this must stop,’” Lynch said.
Law enforcement groups have repeatedly voiced concerns about the growing anti-police sentiment throughout the city.
According to Lieutenants Benevolent Association President Lou Turco, Williams is a “career criminal” who has been out on parole for his attempted murder conviction since 2017, the New York Post reported.
In 2018, he was arrested for driving under the influence and resisting arrest, but was released from jail in January of 2019.
He was due back in court on Monday in connection with that parole violation, the New York Post reported.
Williams also recently got out of jail “for a machine gun charge,” an NYPD source told the New York Post.
Williams’ grandmother, 80-year-old Mary Williams, said that her grandson has been “depressed” at times since his 18-year-old son was fatally shot while he and a friend were playing with a gun in 2018.
She said she was “shocked” to learn that Williams had been arrested for attempting to assassinate New York police officers.
“He stayed in the house and sometimes he would go with me to the laundromat or to the store or whatever,” Mary Williams told the New York Post. “He didn’t have no problems with no police lately.”