On a corner in the Bronx strained by steady rancor over unsolved crimes, and distrust of the police, Officer Miosotis Familia was a balm.
She had earned a reputation as “a good policewoman” in the short time she was assigned to an RV-style police command post at East 183rd Street and Morris Avenue, two miles north of Yankee Stadium, a longtime resident, Roma Martinez, said. She waved hello; she spoke Spanish.
But long before she arrived, a hostility toward law enforcement was building in Alexander Bonds, who had been in and out of prisons and jails for 15 years and was slipping into severe mental illness. Last year he warned in a Facebook video that he would not back down if he encountered police officers on the streets: “I got broken ribs for a reason, son. We gonna shake.”
His girlfriend called 911 Tuesday night and told the police that Mr. Bonds “was acting in a manic, depressed state — paranoid,” a law enforcement official said. When officers arrived, he had gone.
About three hours later, with Fourth of July fireworks still going off, Mr. Bonds strode up to Officer Familia’s command post and fired a .38-caliber revolver through a window, killing her with a bullet to the head. She was the first female New York Police Department officer killed in the line of duty since the Sept. 11 attacks, and only the third female officer killed in a combat-type encounter in the department’s history.
The New York City police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said in a message to officers that she was “assassinated without warning, without provocation, in a direct attack on police officers assigned to safeguard the people of New York City.” And once again the city was plunged into mourning over a targeted police killing that appeared to result in part from a swirl of mental illness and anger at the police, two and a half years after a man with a similar history fatally shot two officers through their patrol car windows.
In the command post around 12:30 a.m., late in Officer Familia’s holiday shift, her partner, Vincent Maher, pleaded for help over the radio: “My partner’s shot! My partner’s shot!” His call drew scores of officers and turned stretches of Independence Day festivities into a crime scene.
Officers chased Mr. Bonds, 34, who wore a black hooded sweatshirt, black pants, black sneakers and black gloves. When they confronted him, he pointed his five-shot Ruger revolver at them and fired at the officers, a preliminary investigation indicates. The officers — a sergeant and a police officer — shot him dead. A bystander struck during the shootout was in stable condition.
“He clearly had to look at her to get the kind of target acquisition it would take to shoot somebody in the head,” a law enforcement official said. “It does not appear that he fired a whole lot of shots at her. So it looked like a straight-up assassination.”
The attack underlined a challenge bedeviling New York City as crime falls to record lows: how to marshal public health resources and coordinate city agencies to treat the most violent and vulnerable citizens, many of them afflicted as Mr. Bonds was by serious mental illness.
An aunt, Nancy Kearse, 55, said Mr. Bonds was released from a Bronx hospital only last week after a breakdown in June. His condition had been diagnosed as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Ms. Kearse said, and he had been taking anti-psychotic medication. She said he had been admitted to Bellevue Hospital Center several times in the last 15 years.
Officer Familia, 48, who was known for a no-nonsense demeanor in her 12 years at the Police Department, grew up in Washington Heights in Manhattan amid the crack cocaine epidemic. She became a police officer in her mid-30s, after ending an earlier try at the Police Academy. She raised a daughter who is now in college and twins, all while caring for her mother in an apartment only two miles north of where she was killed.
“She was a warrior, tell you the truth,” John Cuello, a nephew, said. “She was a fighter, she was tough — and that was the job for her.”
She was assigned to the 46th Precinct in the northwest Bronx before an on-duty leg injury resulted in her being sent to the Bronx courts, a sometimes glum place where her sunny disposition and her desire to be active set her apart. She had made 76 arrests over her career, 23 of them in felonies. She was recently assigned to the RV-style truck stationed on East 183rd Street, which was put there as a deterrent to a rash of gang- and crew-related shootings, among them a daytime triple shooting. The police arrested a man in March in connection with that crime. A law enforcement official said two crews on opposite sides of the Grand Concourse had been warring.
For some residents who said the city too often skimps on police resources in the Bronx, the mobile command post offered a measure of assurance.
Three miles south, outside the apartment where Mr. Bonds lived on the Rev. James A. Polite Avenue in the Morrisania neighborhood, residents said he often spoke with addicts before they took drug purchases from other men on the block. He had been on parole since May 2013, after being locked up for eight years on a robbery conviction in Syracuse. He had also been convicted of selling drugs near a school and had been arrested on suspicion of punching an officer in Queens in 2001 with brass knuckles.
Since his release in 2013, though, he appeared to have minimal police contact and had complied with the conditions of his parole. In the video he posted online about the police, many of his complaints stemmed from what he described as dangerous conditions in state prisons and a lack of accountability for guards.
On July 4, Mr. Bonds returned from work at a fast-food restaurant around 7:30 p.m. and began drinking with friends on the corner, a neighbor said.
His behavior alarmed his girlfriend who, around 9 p.m., called the police several times as she followed him down a street farther south in the Bronx and reported that he was paranoid and manic, a law enforcement official said. Asked by the operator if he was armed or violent, the girlfriend said no, the official said.
Officers and an ambulance crew reached the street where the woman was calling from, but Mr. Bonds had left. The officers classified the call as for an emotionally disturbed person and left.
Soon after midnight, Mr. Bonds was dressed in an all-black outfit that officials believe he was using to escape undetected and carrying a revolver that had been reported stolen several years ago in West Virginia. He passed a deli, turned toward the mobile command post, cinched his hood tighter over his face and then fired one shot through a passenger-side window, said J. Peter Donald, a police spokesman.
There was no indication Mr. Bonds said anything before he fired, and detectives said they did not believe he knew Officer Familia. She was in uniform at the front of a fully lighted truck, a situation in which officers tend to feel at ease, police officials said. Officer Familia was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about three hours after the shooting.
“Make no mistake: Officer Familia was murdered for her uniform and for the responsibility she embraced,” Mr. O’Neill wrote in the message to the department. “And for the N.Y.P.D., regularly achieving lower and lower crime figures means absolutely nothing when one of our own is brutally shot and killed.”
The attack revived memories of ambush-style killings of police officers, including in Iowa last year and in Brooklyn in 2014, when two officers — Wenjian Liu and Rafael L. Ramos — sitting in a patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn were fatally shot by a man who had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had a history of mental illness, then killed himself with the same gun.
It also renewed worries in the Police Department about the risk of officers being targeted in their cars. The department has recently installed bulletproof protection on doors of more than 2,000 patrol cars; in January the city allocated funding for bulletproof window panels on 3,800 cars and last month received its first delivery of 500 pairs of windows.
In 2015, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio began tracking a small number of people with a history of violence and mental illness, but the program was slow to take shape. The city declined to comment on Wednesday about its status or whether Mr. Bonds had been on its radar.
Reporting was contributed by Sewell Chan, Joseph Goldstein, Jeffery C. Mays, James C. McKinley Jr., Gerry Mullany, Sarah Maslin Nir, Emily Palmer, Sean Piccoli, Rick Rojas, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Michael Schwirtz and Nikita Stewart. Susan C. Beachy and Kitty Bennett contributed research.
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