As a grand jury revealed it had indicted an East Harlem man in the slaying of Officer Randolph Holder, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Tuesday blasted Congress for failing to pass any meaningful federal gun laws.
"Personally, I have no faith in the Congress of the United States on this issue at all," Bratton said at a news conference announcing new gun arrests. It has been beholden to the National Rifle Association "for most of my career on policing. I don't see any movement away from that stranglehold the NRA has."
Bratton spoke as he and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced the arrest and indictments of seven New York City men on charges they brought more than 70 automatic weapons and handguns into the area, including the locale where Holder was shot on Oct. 20.
"Politicians are only beholden to their constituents and the majority of those constituents favor gun rights over gun control," said NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide. "If you want to stop violent crime then prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law and prevent them from getting to the next crime scene."
After the news conference about the gun arrests, Vance's office said a Manhattan grand jury had filed a notice with the state court that it had indicted Tyrone Howard, 30, in the death of Holder. Howard, who is being held without bail, wasn't in court for the brief proceeding. The notification of grand jury action didn't state the exact charges but they will probably mirror the first-degree murder and first-degree robbery charges Howard faced when he was arrested last week by police.
Bratton and Vance left soon after yesterday's news conference at 1 Police Plaza to attend the wake for Holder at Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica. A funeral will take place this morning at the church and is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of police officers from around the country.
Holder was killed the evening of Oct. 20 after he and other officers pursued Howard, who was being sought in connection with a shooting earlier that night at 104th Street in East Harlem. Police said Howard shot Holder once in the head with a .40-caliber Glock handgun that he then threw into the East River at about 120th Street and the FDR Promenade. Police divers recovered the gun early Sunday.
Howard faced a robbery charge because he allegedly had stolen at gunpoint a bike from a person, police said.
In announcing the gun charges, Bratton, Vance and Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to the seemingly unstoppable "iron pipeline" trafficking network through which firearms have been smuggled into the city for years. In the past six years, officials have taken nearly 1,000 illegal guns off the street.
"These deadly weapons will no longer be able to shoot, maim or kill New Yorkers," Vance said.
Most of the defendants arrested Tuesday were to go before Judge Edward McLaughlin for bail hearings. He is the judge who sparked controversy when it was learned that earlier this year he had allowed Howard to enter a diversion program for drug treatment in a narcotics case, over prosecutor's objections.
But Vance said he wasn't concerned about McLaughlin handling the new gun cases.
"I don't have shakenconfidence in Judge McLaughlin," Vance said. "I think he is as concerned about public safety as any judge."