The proud Irish American New York cop who suffered several injuries is out of the hospital and says he supports peaceful protests, but not the destruction of businesses by rioters.
A 30-year member of the New York Police Department who survived a deliberate hit and run attack in the Bronx in the early hours of Tuesday, June 2, after a night of Black Lives Matter protests throughout the city, says he’s never been prouder to be a member of the NYPD and remains committed to keeping the public safe.
Sergeant William “Billy” Maher, 51, suffered four broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a fractured cheekbone, and a dislocated shoulder after he was hit by a car in the Mount Eden section of the Bronx. The driver and an accomplice had robbed a pawn shop before fleeing to South Carolina where they were later apprehended. The driver has been charged with attempted murder; the accomplice with burglary.
Maher, whose mother was born in County Kerry, as were his paternal grandparents, was struck by the vehicle and thrown into the air, a video of the incident shows. He considers himself lucky to be alive.
“I’m still in a lot of pain but I’m okay,” Maher, a sergeant in the NYPD’s 44th Precinct in the South Bronx, told the Irish Voice from his home in the Inwood section of Manhattan where he was born and raised. He remains on indefinite medical leave from the NYPD and will likely require surgery to re-set his damaged shoulder.
Just before he was struck, Maher remembers seeing a group of around 30 or 40 people on the street outside the pawnshop trying to push the gate up. He has no memory of the actual hit but recalls being in a cop car as the roads around the Grand Concourse were cleared to get him to the hospital.
He was in Lincoln Hospital for five days. Maher says there’s no doubt that the criminals purposely targeted him because he’s a police officer.
“That’s definite. I was in uniform. I heard some people shouting, ‘PO, PO.’ They knew,” he says.
Maher’s wife Marie, who was raised in County Longford, and their two daughters, 22-year-old Shannon and Kelli, 17 – both are Irish step dancers -- stayed strong throughout his ordeal, he says.
“My wife is very good, very strong and so are our kids, but of course it was tough for them,” Maher says. “My parents are still alive and live around the corner from us. My dad was a member of the NYPD so he knows the dangers of the job.”
The nationwide Black Lives Matter protests which were sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month by a police officer who dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for close to nine minutes have led to calls for defunding police departments, including the NYPD. Taking funds away from the force isn’t a solution, Maher contends.
“I don’t think they should defund us. We are expected to keep the streets safe and in order to do our jobs, we shouldn’t be defunded,” he says.
Maher “100 percent” supports the right of people to peacefully protest. But looting and rioting, he adds, are criminal acts that have no place and are harmful to communities.
“There is always room for reform,” he says when asked if police departments should be open to change. “You appreciate that people want to protest and they absolutely have the right to do it.
“But then there are others who use the protests as a reason to loot. What does breaking into stores on Fordham Road do? Taking shoes, taking jewelry. How does that help the protests or advance the cause? It doesn’t. Destroying community stores just hurts the locals and small businesses. There’s no place for it.”
Maher is critical of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who killed Floyd.
“He shouldn’t have had his knee on him like that. Floyd was cuffed, so it was time to pick him up and put him into the police car and get him out of the area or bring him to the hospital if he needed to go there. Or else bring him to the station for processing,” Maher said.
“I don’t agree with what [Chauvin] did. I would never have done that.”
Maher, who is planning a trip to Ireland with his wife Marie in the next year or so to visit family, says he’s been heartened by the love and support he’s received since he nearly lost his life. Dozens of NYPD officers were on hand for a ceremony when he miraculously walked out of the hospital on Sunday, June 7, and his colleagues regularly check-in to see if he’s okay.
“My father has been getting calls all the time. He got tired of them so he stopped answering the phone!” Maher laughed.
The day will come when Maher once again puts on his NYPD uniform. And he looks forward to it.
“Billy wants everyone to know that he is extremely, extremely proud and honored to be a member of the NYPD,” Marie says.