Friendly fire killed New York City of­fi­cer shot while wrestling with armed man

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Michael R. Sisak

NEW YORK — For the se­cond time this year, a New York City po­lice of­fi­cer has been killed by friendly fire.

Of­fi­cer Brian Mul­keen, who was shot while strug­gling with an armed man Sun­day, was fa­tally struck by two po­lice bul­lets dur­ing the con­fronta­tion on a Bronx street, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner James O’Neill said.

“This is an ab­so­lute tragedy,” O’Neill said Mon­day, though he quickly turned the blame on the man Mul­keen was grap­pling with, who was also killed dur­ing the burst of gun­fire.

“Make no mis­take, we lost the life of a coura­geous pub­lic ser­vant solely due to a vi­o­lent crim­i­nal who put the lives of the po­lice and all the peo­ple we serve in jeop­ardy,” O’Neill said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are still piec­ing to­gether ex­actly what hap­pened, but po­lice of­fi­cials de­scribed a chase and fight that led to a chaotic mo­ment in which six of­fi­cers fired 15 shots in about 10 se­conds.

Mul­keen, 33, was on pa­trol with a plain­clothes anti-crime unit when he and his part­ners en­coun­tered An­to­nio Wil­liams, 27, around 12:30 a.m. Sun­day near a pub­lic hous­ing com­plex, po­lice said.

For rea­sons that re­main un­clear, the of­fi­cers chased Wil­liams, who was on pro­ba­tion fol­low­ing a drug ar­rest last year and pre­vi­ously served 3½ years be­hind bars for bur­glary.

Mul­keen grabbed him and the two be­gan wrestling.

O’Neill said Mul­keen could be heard on body-worn cam­era footage say­ing, “He’s reach­ing for it! He’s reach­ing for it!”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors had pre­vi­ously sug­gested that Wil­liams had wrested the of­fi­cer’s gun away as the pair strug­gled. But po­lice said Mon­day that Mul­keen re­tained con­trol of his gun and fired five shots af­ter Wil­liams reached to­ward his waist­band, said Deputy Chief Kevin Maloney of the NYPD’s Force In­ves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion.

Other of­fi­cers fired a to­tal of 10 shots.

A loaded .32-cal­iber re­volver be­long­ing to Wil­liams was re­cov­ered at the scene, po­lice said. It had not been fired.

Po­lice of­fi­cials said they were still in­ves­ti­gat­ing whose shots killed Wil­liams.

“Any­body who wants to play the ‘blame the cops’ game with this tragedy needs to swal­low their rhetoric and look at the facts,” said Pa­trick Lynch, pres­i­dent of Mul­keen’s union, the Po­lice Benev­o­lent As­so­ci­a­tion.

“That perp is the one who car­ried an il­le­gal gun onto our streets. He is the one who chose to fight with the cops. He is solely re­spon­si­ble for our hero brother’s death.”

All of the of­fi­cers ex­cept Mul­keen ac­ti­vated their body cam­eras. He was un­able to amid the strug­gle with Wil­liams, O’Neill said.

“He dis­played in­cred­i­ble, in­cred­i­ble courage,” O’Neill said.

Mul­keen’s death echoed that of De­tec­tive Brian Si­mon­sen, who was killed by friendly fire in Fe­bru­ary.

Si­mon­sen was hit once in the chest by cross­fire as he and six other of­fi­cers fired 42 shots at a rob­bery sus­pect who charged to­ward them and mim­icked pulling the trig­ger of a fake hand­gun.

In more than 6½ years with the NYPD, Mul­keen made 270 ar­rests — many of them for felonies, in­clud­ing pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal guns.

He left a high-pay­ing fi­nance job to be­come a po­lice of­fi­cer be­cause, as friend Daniel Tucker wrote on Face­book, he “felt like he wasn’t do­ing enough with his life.”

In his Face­book post, Tucker re­counted Mul­keen’s de­par­ture from Mer­rill Lynch. He re­mem­bered his friend call­ing him and say­ing: “Tuck! I couldn’t wait to tell you, I quit my job at Mer­rill Lynch and I’m gonna be a cop!”

Mul­keen, who lived in York­town Heights with his girl­friend, an of­fi­cer in a dif­fer­ent Bronx precinct, started his law en­force­ment ca­reer as a dis­patcher for the po­lice depart­ment in Tuxedo, a town north­west of the city and near his home­town of Mon­roe. He was ap­pointed to the NYPD in Jan­uary 2013.

“He brought joy, and car­ing with him when he came,” the Tuxedo Po­lice Depart­ment posted on Face­book. “He fol­lowed his dream. He will al­ways be one of us, re­mem­bered for his courage, his love and his drive. We will never for­get, we will al­ways be with you.”

Po­lice of­fi­cers and fire­fight­ers lined up along the New York State Thruway on Mon­day as a car­a­van of po­lice ve­hi­cles trans­ported Mul­keen’s body to a fu­neral home in Mon­roe. His fu­neral is sched­uled for Fri­day.

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