Thirty years after his death, the street outside the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica, Queens, was renamed on Monday for NYPD Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed while guarding a witness.
The blue sign, a special dedication for officers killed in the line of duty, was unveiled to the tune of bagpipes at a ceremony attended by the mayor, the police commissioner and Byrne’s brother, Lawrence Byrne, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal matters. An NYPD helicopter flew low overhead.
“People will remember the story of this young officer, a life and a career cut too short, and a life and a career that made a difference and continues to make a difference today, in large part because all of you continue to remember him,” Lawrence Byrne said. “You honor his sacrifice and you remember his service. That’s a tremendous honor to me and my family, a tremendous comfort to all of us.”
Byrne, 22, was fatally shot on Feb. 26, 1988, as he guarded a witness known as “Arjune,” who had previously been threatened over testifying in a drug case.
Byrne was killed by Philip Copeland, David McClary, Scott Cobb and Todd Scott at the order of imprisoned drug kingpin Howard “Pappy” Mason. The four killers shared $8,000 for the killing. Byrne was shot in the head as he sat alone in a patrol car outside the South Jamaica, Queens, house.
The four men were caught bragging about the killing and the $8,000 they were paid for it. They were sentenced to 25 years to life, while Mason is serving a life sentence.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Byrne’s death had a galvanizing effect on the city in terms of a collective resolve to confront a culture of pervasive violence.
“That was the beginning. It was a wake-up 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, adding: “Look at where we are in 2018. . . . We’ll continue to push crime down because that’s what we do.”
The street rededication followed a mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral last week and a memorial service just after midnight on Monday.
“What feels sharp and painful as ever is the notion that a coward in the dead of night took the life of a good young man, a man of such promise, such commitment,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “But in every tragedy we look for something we can cling on to, and in the case and loss of Eddie, it’s something very, very meaningful: he did not die in vain by any stretch of the imagination. There was anger, there was revulsion at the death of this good young man. It was not something this city ignored.”