Three years ago, Jason Rivera wrote a letter to the New York City Police Academy, explaining why he wanted to be a police officer.
“When I applied to become a police officer, I knew this was the career for me,” he said.
“I would be the first person in my family to become a police officer,” Rivera wrote, as reported by the Daily Mail. “Coming from an immigrant family, I will be the first to say that I am a member of the NYPD, the greatest police force in the world.
“Growing up in New York City, I realized how impactful my role as a police officer would go in this chaotic city of about 10 million people,” he said. “I know that something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue, will put a smile on someone’s face.”
Rivera ended up doing something far greater than that — but instead of putting a smile on someone’s face, it put tears in their eyes.
On the evening of Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, a 911 call came in at the precinct where Rivera worked. Later that night, James Essig, the New York Police Department chief of detectives, would explain what happened when Rivera, his partner, Officer Wilbert Mora, and a third officer were dispatched to answer that call.
“The 911 caller was a female who stated that she was disputing with her son,” Essig told reporters. “She mentioned no injuries and no weapons. Upon entering the apartment, the officers were met by that female caller and her son. After a brief conversation, the officers were informed that her other son, whom she was disputing with, was in the back bedroom.”
This bedroom, Essig explained, was about 30 feet down a hallway from the living room where the officers had encountered the mother and the first son.
“This hallway is very tight and narrow,” said Essig. “As our first officers approached the bedroom, the door swings open and numerous shots are fired, striking both officers, one fatally, and one is here at Harlem Hospital in critical condition.”
The shooter, as Essig explained, had a criminal history.
“As the perpetrator attempts to exit, he is confronted by our third officer, who fires two rounds, striking him in the right arm and head,” said Essig. “Our perpetrator is LaShawn McNeil. He is a male, 47 years old. He has one prior arrest in New York City for a felony conviction of narcotics in 2003, and which he is on probation for. He has four arrests outside of New York City: one in South Carolina for an unlawful possession of a weapon in 1998; one for assaulting a police officer in Pennsylvania in 2002; a felony drug in 2003 and a misdemeanor narcotics in 2003 in Pennsylvania.
“Recovered at that scene is a Glock 45 high-capacity magazine, which holds up to 40 additional rounds,” said Essig.
“That gun was stolen from Baltimore in 2017,” he said.
Officers Rivera and Mora both ultimately died from the gunshot wounds they suffered that night — as did McNeil.
Three weeks before this lethal confrontation, Manhattan had sworn in its new district attorney, Alvin Bragg. A few days later, The New York Times ran a story with this headline: “Manhattan D.A. Acts on Vow to Seek Incarceration Only for Worst Crimes.”
“Manhattan’s new district attorney began this week to adopt the lenient policies he campaigned on, setting the stage for potential conflict inside and outside his office as he tries to change the way criminal justice is administered in the borough,” the Times reported.
“The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told prosecutors in his office in a memo that they should ask judges for jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses — including murder, sexual assault and economic crimes involving vast sums of money — unless the law requires them to do otherwise,” said the Times.
One of Bragg’s early critics was Dominque Luzuriaga, the widow of Officer Rivera.
She delivered a eulogy at her husband’s funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“The system continues to fail us,” she said in that eulogy. “We are not safe anymore, not even the members of the service.
“I know you were tired of these laws, especially the ones from the new DA,” she said to her departed husband. “I hope he’s watching you speak through me right now.”
At this point, the congregation stood to give Officer Rivera’s widow a prolonged ovation.
“I am sure all of our blue family is tired, too,” she said, when the ovation subsided. “But I promise — we promise — that your death won’t be in vain. I love you to the end of time. We’ll take the watch from here.”
Last week, as reported by Politico, Bragg’s office put out a statement declaring “New York remains one of the safest big cities in the U.S. with a far lower murder rate than the most populous cities.”
In 2022, according to the NYPD, there were 438 murders and non-negligent manslaughters in New York City. That works out to an average of one every 20 hours — or more than one per day. While that was less than the 488 murders and non-negligent manslaughters in New York City in 2021, or the 468 in 2020, it was significantly more than the 292 in 2017; the 295 in 2018; or the 319 in 2019.
In the beginning of this year (through March 12), according to data published by the NYPD, there have been 66 murders in New York City. That works out to about one every 25.8 hours.
If holding the rate of murders and manslaughters to approximately one per day makes a big city one of our nation’s safest — and justifies a district attorney’s office bragging about the murder rate — we have a violent crime problem in this country.