A police officer was fatally shot in the face as she sat in a marked NYPD vehicle in the Bronx in what Commissioner James O’Neill called an assassination early Wednesday.
Officer Miosotis Familia, a mother of three and 12-year veteran of the NYPD serving with the 46th Precinct, was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital in critical condition, and was later pronounced dead, police said.
Suspect Alexander Bonds, 34, shot through the window of the NYPD “command vehicle,” parked near Morris Avenue and East 183rd Street in Fordham Heights at about 12:30 a.m., hitting Familia, 48, O’Neill said at an early morning news conference at the hospital.
“Based on what we know now, it is clear that this was an unprovoked attack on police officers,” O’Neill said.
Before the shooting, Bonds was seen going into a bodega, exiting, pulling up his hoodie and then walking over to the police vehicle that’s about the size of a motor home, officials said. The mobile command center had been stationed at the intersection since March, after a number of “gang and crew shootings” in the area, O’Neill said.
Familia’s partner radioed for help, as Bonds fled on Morris Avenue, the commissioner said. “Shots fired,” the officer can be heard yelling on released audio of the call. “My partner’s shot,” he yelled.
Responding officers approached Bonds about a block from the shooting. He drew his weapon and the officers fired, killing him, O’Neill said. A revolver was recovered from the scene.
Bonds, who also went by the name John Bonds, had been on parole for a robbery in Syracuse since 2013, New York State Department of Corrections records show. In September 2016, he posted a video on Facebook of himself criticizing police officers.
A 28-year-old man, who lives near where the shooting occurred, was struck by a bullet in the abdomen during the encounter with Bonds, a law enforcement source said. He was in stable condition, police said. It was not immediately clear if the bullet was fired by police or by Bonds.
Hours after the shooting, a heavy police presence remained in the area surrounding the shooting site. The window of the right side door of the mobile command center was shattered and its lights were still flashing. Yellow police tape blocked off the area as residents walked by slowly trying to learn more about what happened.
Kim Jaime, 45, who lives near the scene of the shooting, said she heard the shots last night but assumed they were fireworks. She said frequent shootings on the Fourth of July is what prompted her to stay indoors with her granddaughter.
“You can’t distinguish the fireworks from the shooting,” Jaime said.
A Bronx native who has lived in the area for the past year, Jamie called it “the worst neighborhood in the Bronx” but said she generally felt safe by the heavy police presence in the area.
On her way to work at Yankee Stadium, Jaime offered her condolences to one of the officers posted along the corner of 182nd Street and Morris Avenue: “Sorry for your loss.”
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said the neighborhood where Familia was killed is “plagued by gang gun violence.”
“Fully knowing the dangers that she faced, she suited up in uniform every day and stood tall against those who threaten and terrorize the good folks of the Bronx,” he said in a statement.
Later on Wednesday, a letter from O’Neill was circulated to police officers, urging them to remain steadfast in their promise to protect the city’s residents in the face of a “direct attack on police officers.”
“Make no mistake: Officer Familia was murdered for her uniform and for the responsibility she embraced,” O’Neill said in the letter. “I know that our profession can sometimes seem thankless. And when a tragedy like this occurs, it can feel like you are facing this burden alone. But you’re not.”
The flags outside of City Hall were lowered to half-staff Wednesday afternoon, as O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the 46th Precinct and met with Familia’s colleagues. The pair wanted to show their “solidarity” with the officers, said the mayor’s spokesman, Eric Phillips.
De Blasio, who spoke at the news conference earlier in the morning, called the attack on Familia “shocking.”
“She was on duty, serving this city, protecting people, doing what she believed in and doing the job she loved,” he said.
Maria Santiago, 77, who has lived in the area since 1981, arrived at the 46th Precinct station with eyes puffy from crying. She said she had gotten to know Familia as the officer patrolled the area over the years, and wanted to pay respects.
“She was very sweet. She was very gentle,” Santiago said of Familia.
Marie Espinal, 35, whose husband works at the 46th Precinct, arrived at the police station with flowers to mourn Familia, who she described as a friend.
“She was a good mother, a good worker, and she really cared about this community,” she said.
Politicians, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, offered their condolences to Familia’s family Wednesday.
In an emailed statement, Sessions said Familia was “unjustly targeted” while on patrol.
“She will be remembered for her years of service and for the example of selflessness that she set protecting innocent people on our streets,” Sessions said before adding that attacks on police officers must stop.
New York State Sen. Jesse Hamilton said it is important to remember Familia’s bravery in the days ahead.
“Remember that no one should ever have to endure the agony her family and friends now face,” Hamilton said in an emailed statement. “Let us unite to console the grieving and send our thoughts and prayers to Officer Familia’s loved ones. Let us also resolve that our bonds as New Yorkers and our common humanity will continue to remain stronger than any who would seek to tear us apart.”
Wednesday’s shooting was reminiscent of the ambush of two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were killed as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, 2014.
The most recent NYPD officer to die in the line of duty was Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, who was fatally shot in the Bronx on Nov. 4, 2016.