Two NYPD officers were suspended Thursday after a woman who they were assigned to check on was later found dead at the bottom of a stairwell in her building in Crown Heights, the NYPD said.
The officers — identified by a law enforcement source as Wing Hong Lau and Wael Jaber, both 11-year veterans — responded to the home of 22-year-old Tonie Wells after a 911 call was made Wednesday morning, police said. The caller told police they heard two people arguing and a woman yell “help me, he’s going to kill me,” 1010 WINS reported.
But the officers who responded to the building on Sterling Place, near Albany Avenue, allegedly found nothing suspicious and left. It wasn’t until a different pair of officers responded to a second 911 call that Wells’ body was found at the bottom of the basement staircase around 10 a.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
The entire incident, including any potential communication and response issues within the department, is being investigated.
“We’re conducting an internal investigation to look at the actions of those two officers and quite frankly everybody involved in the response to that incident,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at an unrelated news conference on Thursday. “I talk about my pride in the NYPD each and every day and unfortunately there are times when we don’t live up to that standard and it’s up to us to investigate that. And if discipline needs to be dealt out, we’ll do that.”
Wells’ husband, Barry Wells, was taken into police custody around 6 p.m. Wednesday with the assistance of family, friends and the New Rochelle Police Department, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said on Thursday.
Married since April, the couple had been having problems lately, Boyce said, including a September arrest of Barry Wells for assaulting his wife at her mother’s home in Manhattan. He was out on $5,000 bail when Wells was found dead.
“He had made statements to the problems they were having,” Boyce added.
Barry Wells was taken to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx after he told investigators he had tried to take his own life, but Boyce said it was determined to not be true. He was last being held at the 77th Precinct, Boyce said, and investigators were awaiting autopsy results before they could move forward with the case.