The fatal shooting of a New York Police Department officer has left a community devastated as police try to piece together a motive for the murder. The shooter, who had posted anti-police sentiments online, suffered from a mental illness, according to his girlfriend and family.
Officer Miosotis Familia, 48, was parked in a police vehicle in the Bronx just after midnight on Wednesday when Alexander Bonds fired a single fatal shot. Familia was struck in the head and later died at the hospital. Bonds was shot and killed by police about a block away from where he shot Familia.
According to the New York Times, Familia was the first female officer to be killed in the line of duty since 9/11, as well as the third female officer in the history of the NYPD to be killed in a combat encounter.
Police Commissioner O’Neill said Familia “was assassinated in an unprovoked attack.”
Bonds, 34, appeared to have suffered from a mental illness. The night of the murder, his girlfriend called 911 to report that he was “irrational and erratic,” as well as “paranoid.” According to the New York Post, Bonds’ girlfriend reported to investigators on Wednesday that Bonds was a schizophrenic who stopped taking his medication.
Bonds’ girlfriend called for help three times on the night of the killing but police could not locate her or Bonds.
Bonds was hospitalized in June following a breakdown.
“He kept saying he was going to kill someone,” said Bonds’ aunt, Nancy Kearse, to the New York Times. “He was very angry.”
Police are also investigating a video Bonds previously posted online, in which he said of a possible confrontation with police, “I’m not hesitating. It ain’t happening. I wasn’t a bitch in jail and I’m not going to be a bitch in these streets.”
In 2001 Bonds attacked a police officer while wearing brass knuckles, the New York Post reported police sources as saying. He served jail time for a robbery charge and has been out on parole since 2013.
But his family does not believe the motive was police bias.
“They do paint him as a really bad person, and I get it,” Kearse told the Times. “My heart really goes out to that family, but he is no cop killer.”
Bonds and Familia reportedly did not know each other.
Familia was a 12-year veteran on the force. She had a large family that included her three children, her mother and many siblings. Family members reported to media outlets that Familia just requested the midnight shift several weeks ago so she could spend more time with her family during the summer.
John Cuello, Familia’s nephew, remembered his aunt as “a warrior,” according to the Times.
“She was a warrior, tell you the truth,” he said. “She was a fighter, she was tough — and that was the job for her.”
“She was like a very tough girl,” her sister Adriana Sanchez told the New York Daily News. “She said she wanted to protect the city from all those crazies — and look what happened.”
It was in Familia’s nature to take care of others, family members indicated. She was also a trained nurse and worked with the Red Cross as well as New York University Hospital prior to joining the NYPD. Even after sustaining a leg injury while on the job in 2014, Familia opted to keep working.
“She wasn’t ready to retire,” Ernest Sanchez, Familia’s brother-in-law, told the Daily News. “She was hurt on the job, but she wanted to continue working.”
Adriana Sanchez, Familia’s sister, told the Daily News that Familia’s children are numb — as is she.
“They were like, ‘Who’s going to take care of us now?’” she said.
“I’m totally numb,” Sanchez also said. “I don’t believe this is happening.”
Despite increased tensions between community members and law enforcement in some areas, one local resident remembered Familia as always smiling.
“I know there’s a lot of distress about lack of justice in our community,” Vivian Gomez, who lived in the same apartment complex as Familia, told the Washington Post. “She’s a real face behind the badge.”
“I never heard her say, ‘I dislike my job’ or ‘It’s tough,’” Gomez said. “She always had a smile on her face.”
City and law enforcement officials responded to the shooting as well.
“She was on duty, serving this city, protecting people, doing what she believed in and doing the job she loved,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference Wednesday morning. “And after this shocking and sudden attack, her fellow officers came to her aid immediately.”
“Always remember that Officer Familia lived to protect us, and her legacy protects us still,” said Police Commissioner O’Neill. “In the days, weeks and months ahead, we will grieve and remember this selfless public servant who dedicated her life to caring for others.”
The shooting echoed a similar attack on NYPD in 2014, at which time two officers were shot at point-blank range in Brooklyn. Both officers, who were also sitting in their police vehicle at the time, were killed.
Other attacks on law enforcement shook the nation in 2016. Last July, five officers were killed in Dallas, and nine were wounded. Less than two weeks later, two officers were fatally shot in Baton Rouge, La.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, when comparing January 1 through July 5 for 2016 and 2017, 2017 has seen a slight uptick in law enforcement fatalities. For firearms specifically, there is a 9 percent increase from this year versus last year. Overall, though, the number of police fatalities has been on the decline, not peaking 200 since 2007. The highest number of police fatalities on the job in the last 40 years (with the exception of 2001) was in 1979, when 217 officers reportedly died on the job. In 2001 the number was 242.