Today marks the twenty seventh anniversary of the assassination of REMA member Matt Byrne’s (Ret, Lt ESU, Legal Div) son, Edward Byrne (PO 103 Pct). Please keep Matt and the entire Byrne family in your prayers.
Around 3:30 a.m, on February 26, 1988, rookie Police Officer Edward Byrne, 103 Pct. was sitting in his marked patrol car on 107th Avenue and Inwood Street in South Jamaica, Queens. He was assigned to keep an eye on the house of a local Guyanese immigrant named Arjune, who had repeatedly called the police to report on illegal activities on his street. The house had been previously firebombed on two separate occasions and the owner repeatedly threatened. Despite this recent violence, and an ongoing crime wave overtaking South Queens, Byrne was assigned to this post alone. As Byrne sat in his car another car pulled up beside him. Two men exited and one of them knocked on the passenger side window of Byrne’s cruiser while a second man crept up on the driver’s side and shot Byrne in the head five times with a .38 caliber pistol. Two other men acted as lookouts. Byrne was pronounced dead at a hospital. He was 22 years old.
It was later learned that the assailants canvassed the immigrant’s house twice on preceding days before killing Officer Byrne, but decided not to kill the lone officer in the patrol car since the first officer they encountered was a young female, and the second was a black male.
The murder prompted nationwide outrage. Ronald Reagan personally called the Byrne family to offer condolences. George H.W. Bush carried Byrne’s badge with him on his campaign for president in 1988.
The four killers were identified as Philip Copeland, Todd Scott, Scott Cobb, and David McClary. All four were apprehended within a week of the murder and were all eventually convicted: Copeland, Scott and Cobb were convicted after trial of Murder in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree; McClary was convicted later as the shooter in a separate trial of Murder in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. All were sentenced to 25 years to life by Queens Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Demakos, who had presided over the trials. Cobb, in a videotaped confession which was played at trial, provided graphic details of the killing and also told of the bragging of the participants in the aftermath, as well as indicating that the killing was ordered from jail by drug dealer Howard “Pappy” Mason who had wanted to “ice a cop.” Mason’s crime partner Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols was also implicated, although it has been determined that he was unaware of Mason’s orders and was never charged for the crime.
The murder had the opposite effect from what was intended. Rather than intimidate the police and public, it prompted a concentrated crackdown which saw the two kingpins put behind bars. Mason was eventually convicted on federal charges which included ordering the killing of Officer Byrne. He is serving his life sentence in the ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.