July 5, 2002
By Richard Steier
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and a Brooklyn City Council Member who is a former Black Panther renewed hostilities last week over the possible parole of a man convicted in one of New York's most notorious cop-killings.
A parole hearing later this month for Anthony Bottom, who is now known as Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, prompted City Councilman Charles Barron to introduce a City Council resolution supporting his freedom.
Lynch: Make Him Do Life
But an hour before Mr. Barron held a City Hall press conference June 26 to publicized the issue, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch was joined by the families of the two cops whose 1971 murder led to Mr. Muntaqim's conviction in urging that he never be freed.
Mr. Lynch, standing outside the 32nd Precinct stationhouse from which Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini worked at the time that they were ambushed by members of the Black Liberation Army on the night of May 21, 1971, said those families "have been denied husbands and fathers because of Bottom's unthinkably savage and cowardly crime. They absolutely should not release this killer onto the streets of this great city."
With Suffolk County PBA President Jeff Frayler and his Nassau counterpart, Gary Dellaraba, also looking on, Mr. Lynch declared, "We are calling upon the State of New York to send a strong and undeniable message that you cannot kill a police officer in New York State and expect to walk away a free man one day."
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who was a Sergeant at the time of the shooting, also expressed strong opposition to the potential release of Mr. Muntaqim.
"He is an assassin, a killer of two police officers." Mr. Kelly said at Police Headquarters. He declined to comment on Mr. Barron's resolution.
Council Member Barron included Mr. Muntaqim, who is serving a 25-years-to-life sentence, among those he said had been "unjustly imprisoned" for lengthy periods because of their political beliefs.
'He's a Cop Killer'
That prompted PBA Manhattan South Trustee John Flynn, who attended the press conference, to interject, "You mean like cop-killers? People who assassinate police officers?"
Mr. Barron, who during his first six months on the Council has developed a reputation for taking provocative stands on issues with racial undercurrents, said his resolution was designed to redress law-enforcement abuses that he said included improper intelligence probes of black organizations and leaders that were authorized by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover during the 1960's, as well as what he called unjustified killings of members of the Black Panther Party by police.
"If America wants freedom for political prisoners around the world, then we must have freedom for political prisoners right here in America," he said. Council Member Barron noted that the City Council had in the past approved resolutions supporting political prisoners in Northern Ireland who "had [dead] bodies connected to their names," and said black political prisoners should receive similar support as a matter of equity.
PBA officials pointed out, however, that the Black Liberation Army to which the man then known as Anthony Bottom belonged had as its express purpose the killing of police officers, and financed its operations with armed robberies of banks and armored trucks. The BLA was a splinter group of the Panthers.
Officers Jones and Piagentini responded to a domestic violence call at a Harlem housing project and were gunned down while returning to their car. After being wounded, Officer Piagentini was pleading for help when the gunmen took his service weapon from its holster and shot him a few more times.
"No one should ever be released for the execution of two police officers who just responded to a job," said PBA Recording Secretary Robert Zink following Councilman Barron's press conference. "These two officers were set up. These members [of the BLA] were convicted of assassinating two police officers. I think it's outrageous that Council Member Barron is calling for their release." (Two other BLA members were convicted in the case; the one who is still alive is not eligible for parole until 2004.)
'Served Long Enough'
Mr. Barron said there were questions about the evidence that served as the basis for the conviction of Mr. Muntaqim, then added, "We say no matter what the situation, 30 years is enough. Let him out."
Asked whether he was suggesting that even if Mr. Muntaqim was guilty of the murders he should nonetheless be freed, Councilman Barron claimed he had made no such statement. Pressed as to why the Parole Board would grant him his freedom when Mr. Muntaqim had never acknowledged committing the crime for which he was sent away, Mr. Barron simply said, "That is my answer."