The April release on parole of a convicted killer of three cops has shocked the family of the late NYPD Police Officer Edward Byrne, whose assassins are also scheduled for parole hearings next month.
Larry Byrne, a former deputy commissioner for the NYPD and the elder brother of Eddie Byrne, says his family fears that the four killers who took Eddie’s life while he was on duty 30 years ago might find sympathetic ears on the New York State Parole Board, just as Herman Bell did earlier this year.
“It’s outrageous. After Bell was released I think there’s a greater risk that Eddie’s killers will be too,” Byrne told the Irish Voice.
Eddie Byrne was killed in his patrol car in the early morning hours of February 26, 1988; shot in the head five times on the orders of a local drug lord as he kept watch over the home of a witness in Jamaica, Queens. He had just celebrated his 22nd birthday five days earlier and was a rookie on the force.
Eddie’s four assassins—David McClary, Scott Cobb, Todd Scott and Phillip Copeland—were convicted and received sentences of 25 years to life, the maximum allowable under the sentencing guidelines at the time.
The Byrne family remains furious that the killers have never expressed remorse or acknowledged the crime. Byrne attended a parole hearing last Friday to once again state the case for why they need to be jailed for life.
“I spent over an hour at the hearing,” Byrne said. “They asked questions and I gave them the full background of the crime, my family and the impact it had and still has on us. I told them about our Irish grandmother who came to this country from Ireland, and never thought she’d be attending her grandson’s funeral.
“My family and I think of Eddie every single day. Losing him is a tragedy we will never get over.”
Eddie’s killers have had parole hearings every two years since 2012, and release has always been denied. But the release of Bell after he served more than 40 years for killing two NYPD members in a Harlem ambush in 1971—he also murdered a San Francisco police sergeant the same year—has infuriated and worried Byrne and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
“I think Eddie’s killers are in different shoes because they have shown no remorse,” said Byrne. (Bell, after decades in prison, acknowledged the murders and asked for forgiveness, and received a college education in jail.)
“But we are still very concerned. It’s just outrageous that they are even eligible for parole in the first place.”
Eddie Byrne’s cold-blooded murder received headlines around the country at the time and prompted a law in New York State which now requires that convicted cop killers receive mandatory life without parole sentences.
Unfortunately for the Byrne family, they’re facing the prospect of having to go before the Parole Board every other year, but Byrne says that’s preferable to the alternative.
“I’d rather go every two years than see these assassins on the street. And after I’m gone my three sons will continue to do it,” says Byrne, who intends to press Governor Andrew Cuomo’s staff on parole reforms.
“The guidelines need to be changed to put a greater emphasis on the seriousness of the crime,” he says. “And there should be a change in the number of years between parole hearings to every five years so the families don’t have to go through this every other year.”
The public can help keep Eddie’s killers behind bars. A petition is available for signing at www.nycpba.org; Eddie’s name is listed four times for each of the killers, and the petition takes only seconds to complete.
“Having as much public support as possible would be so important to us,” Byrne said. “We need to send a message that releasing cop killers into society will never be acceptable.”
The Parole Board will issue its decision in the Byrne case by the end of next month.