November 24, 2015 / 12:23 PM / 4 years ago

Accused N.Y. cop killer pleads not guilty to murder charge

(Reuters) - The man accused of killing a New York City police officer in October pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges on Tuesday in state court in Manhattan.

Tyrone Howard, 31, is charged with firing a single shot into the head of Officer Randolph Holder on Oct. 20 in the city’s East Harlem neighborhood.

“Not guilty,” Howard said when asked how he pleaded to an 11-count indictment, as Holder’s family and approximately 70 police officers watched from the courtroom gallery.

The arraignment came two weeks after Howard was sentenced to the maximum 12 years in prison in a separate drug case for which he initially received treatment, rather than prison, as part of a plea agreement for selling crack cocaine.

The outcome of that case drew criticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton in the wake of Holder’s shooting. They suggested that two state judges erred in allowing Howard to remain on the streets after a history of drug offenses.

The Manhattan judge who ultimately approved Howard’s plea deal, Patricia Nunez, handed down the maximum penalty on Nov. 12 in the drug dealing case, saying Howard had squandered a chance to turn his life around.

However, Nunez also had harsh words for de Blasio and Bratton, saying they had created a “false narrative” by ignoring that Howard had never been convicted of a violent crime and that he was already out on bail at the time of his plea.

She said the mayor should ask himself whether his own policies “make somebody actually feel he can shoot a cop,” prompting de Blasio to fire back that her comments were “irresponsible.”

Howard, who failed to complete his treatment, was wanted in connection with a gang-related shooting at the time of Holder’s death.

Holder, 33, a third-generation officer, was the fourth New York City officer to be killed in the line of duty since December 2014.

“The family of Detective Randolph Holder will have to spend their first holiday with an empty seat at the table,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

Patrick Lynch, head of the city’s largest police union, said officers would pack the courtroom whenever Howard appears. He called Howard an “animal,” “miscreant” and “clown.”

“We will be back here each and every time this mutt shows up in court,” he said following the hearing, standing beside Holder’s father, Randolph Sr.

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