NYPD must act to prevent friendly fire casualties

The casket holding NYPD officer Brian Mulkeen is carried from the Sacred Heart in Monroe, N.Y. on Oct. 4, 2019. Mulkeen, 33, was killed in a friendly fire incident as he wrestled with a suspect running from he and his fellow officers in the Bronx last week. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Additional training and firearms instruction should be taken seriously.

The casket holding NYPD officer Brian Mulkeen is carried from the Sacred Heart in Monroe, N.Y. on Oct. 4, 2019. Mulkeen, 33, was killed in a friendly fire incident as he wrestled with a suspect running from he and his fellow officers in the Bronx last week.
The casket holding NYPD officer Brian Mulkeen is carried from the Sacred Heart in Monroe, N.Y. on Oct. 4, 2019. Mulkeen, 33, was killed in a friendly fire incident as he wrestled with a suspect running from he and his fellow officers in the Bronx last week. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

What happened to NYPD Officer Brian Mulkeen is a tragedy, one that needs addressing. 

Mulkeen was patrolling near the Edenwald Houses in the Bronx after midnight on Sept. 29, the site of recent gunfire, when he approached an individual for questioning. The man, Antonio Williams, fled. Mulkeen chased and tackled Williams, who police said was armed, and in the struggle the officer’s own service weapon went off. Fellow officers fired in the dark and in the heat of the moment to aid one of their own, and it was part of that fusillade that killed the 33-year-old police veteran. 

Those are the grim details as we know them now. Mulkeen displayed fearless dedication to his job, the point of which is to keep New Yorkers safe. His efforts ended with both Mulkeen and Williams dead, and his fellow officers devastated.

It was the second friendly fire death in the NYPD this year, after Det. Brian Simonsen was killed while responding to a robbery in Queens in February.

Such incidents are rare, according to FBI statistics, but the NYPD must do everything it can to prevent them.

The department committed to additional training for members after Simonsen’s death, including a video series, a one-day course about responding to critical incidents, and new Tactical Training Centers for borough-based preparation that includes video firearm simulation. Additional anti-crime team training is being mandated as well.

Those are the right moves and should be taken seriously by everyone in the department. NYPD members are so often put into chaotic, terrifying scenarios, but caution, backup and patience may be the best moves. More cautious approaches, when possible, may even help prevent those situations.

So many of the lessons of this tragedy, though, remain murky without the full release of body camera footage taken at the scene. Police Commissioner James O’Neill committed to releasing that footage, and that promise should be kept as soon as possible. This is a painful moment for Mulkeen’s family, his fellow officers and for the city. All efforts should be made to prevent this from happening again. 

The Editorial Board