Murdered NYPD cops added to grim roster at doomed precinct

It’s the NYPD’s most tragic stationhouse.

Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora join a long list of fallen cops from Harlem’s 32nd Precinct — which has likely seen more casualties than any other in the department, a historian told The Post.

The two young cops were ambushed by crazed ex-con Lashawn McNeil while answering a call for a domestic dispute in a Harlem apartment Jan. 21, with Rivera killed immediately and Mora succumbing to his injuries days later.

Flower tributes to the officers sit before a wall of past heroes — 26 who perished, beginning with Patrolman Robert Holmes in 1917. He was among just four black police officers with the NYPD when he was shot to death while chasing a burglar, according to the non-profit Officer Down Memorial Page.

“From everything I know, the 32nd Precinct has the most homicides of police officers killed in the line of duty,” said Mike Bosak, a retired sergeant and unofficial NYPD historian.

The most recent deaths are eerily reminiscent of the 1971 murders of Officers Waverly Jones, 33, and Joseph Piagentini, 28, who were ambushed by members of the anti-cop Black Liberation Army after answering a domestic dispute call at the Colonial Park housing complex.

Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini were killed in an ambush in 1971.
Matthew McDermott

“I never, ever thought that this would happen again, and it did. In the same precinct,” said Piagentini’s widow, Diane.

The 32nd Precinct, which covers central Harlem, includes six public housing complexes and 11 private developments, among them Lenox Terrace, home to former Congressman Charles Rangel and former Gov. David Paterson. It’s also home to Harlem Hospital, where many of the wounded officers, including Rivera and Mora, were taken.

Serious crime is a fraction of what it was three decades ago. In 1990, there were 66 murders compared to 16 last year and the two this year.

Before Rivera and Mora were killed, the last officer from the stationhouse on West 135th Street to die in the line of duty was Det. Cedric Dixon in March 2020. He was the first NYPD officer to die of COVID-19.

The 32nd Precinct pictured in 1991.
The 32nd Precinct pictured in 1991.
New York Post

The Roaring Twenties and Great Depression proved particularly lethal for the precinct’s patrolmen, with 12 killed during the 1920s and 1930s. One was stabbed, another was deliberately mowed down by a speeding car, and several were killed in gun battles.

The era was marked by Prohibition and widespread mob-controlled bootlegging, Bosak said.

A century ago this month, Detectives William Miller and Francis Buckley, were shot to death while trying to bring a suspect in the shooting of another officer to the stationhouse. The detectives picked up the man, not knowing he had shot and killed someone during a robbery an hour earlier, and he opened fire as he tried to flee, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

detective sollecito
Retired detective Angelo Sollecito worked in the 32nd Precinct in the ’50s.
Helayne Seidman

Retired NYPD Detective Angelo Sollecito, whose first NYPD stint was as an officer in the 32nd Precinct in 1957, said the heroin addicts who committed crimes to feed their habit made the job a nightmare.

“There was violence against police officers all the time,” said Sollecito, 89, who lives on Long Island.

Officer Francis Walsh, a pal from Sollecito’s time at the police academy, was gunned down in September 1961 just before the end of his shift when he stepped inside a grocery store, interrupting a robbery in progress, he said.

A few years later, Mike Sapik was stabbed on West 135th Street, the same street where Rivera and Mora were killed.

“He just walked down [to Harlem Hospital] without any assistance,” Sollecito said. “Walked into the emergency room with the knife in his back.”

Piagentini said her husband worked during a time of anti-police sentiment when officers had to dodge bricks and bottles thrown at them. But, she said, he did not express any fear about the job.

Sollecito
One of Sollecito’s academy pals was gunned down inside a grocery store just before the end of his shift.
Helayne Seidman

 “They were two great cops, both devoted to their jobs,” she said of her husband and Jones.

The partners were two of 12 NYPD members to die that year in what was the deadliest year for police killings across the country, said Greg Umbach, an associate history professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Detective William Buckley was killed a century ago this month.
Detective William Buckley was killed a century ago this month.

Police fatalities began to plummet after a 1972 policy change that restricted how often NYPD officers could fire their weapons, which reduced the number of gun battles, Umbach said.

It may be the current left-wing political climate and its vilification of police that is behind the recent uptick in violence against law enforcement, Bosack said. The shooting of Rivera and Mora marked the fourth and fifth time NYPD officers had been shot in the first three weeks of 2022.

“It is also the climate of permissiveness that condones crime and the taking of property,” he said. “Top that reasoning with the policies of prosecutors or (the) district attorney that conveys to criminals that it is alright to resist being arrested. So now the criminal is under the belief that if he uses violent physical force to resist, there will be no consequences.”

Even as flowers and tributes poured into the 32nd Precinct this week, there was a blatant sign of disrespect — someone slashed the tires of marked police cars parked outside.

Piagentini’s widow called upon Mayor Eric Adams to stem the violence before any more names are added to the memorial wall.

“It doesn’t go away for the survivors of the killing of a police officer,” she said. “It stays with you. It stays with your family. It stays with your children for the rest of your life. I can’t say that enough.”