PHOTO: The Police Department and South Jamaica community mark the anniversary of the murder of Officer Eddie Byrne every February with a ceremony at the intersection of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street, where the rookie was assassinated in 1988. Photos Courtesy of NYPD
By Michael V. Cusenza
Cops and community last Friday united at an infamous intersection in South Jamaica for the 28th annual solemn service that celebrates a man who literally gave his life for this city, and reminds the world that its grateful natives will never forget him.
Eddie Byrne, a rookie City cop assigned to the 103rd Precinct, was gunned down on Feb. 26, 1988, as he sat in his marked patrol car at 107th Avenue and Inwood Street, guarding the home of a witness in a drug case.
The four killers—Philip Copeland, Todd Scott, Scott Cobb, and David McClary—were apprehended and convicted. Each was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Each has been denied parole at their hearings.
“We gathered together in the early morning hours, braving the cold to commemorate the life and sacrifice of PO Edward Byrne, who gave the ultimate sacrifice with his life on Feb. 26, 1988, a night that the city of New York will never forget—the heinous, senseless assassination of one of New York’s Finest!” said Bishop Erskine Williams, Sr., president of the 103rd Precinct Community Council. “It has caused us as a community to stand strong with a united front like never before! To our illustrious Commissioner [Bill] Bratton, Chief [Jim] O’Neill, [Asst.] Chief [David]Berrere, and last but certainly not least, our highly distinguished Inspector John Cappelmann, the commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, it was indeed an honor to participate in this 28th commemoration ceremony.”
Bratton characterized Byrne’s “much too short life” as “one of incredible significance.” Lawrence Byrne, Eddie’s brother and NYPD deputy commissioner of Legal Matters, noted how 28 years ago it wasn’t just the Byrne family that “suffered a terrible loss,” but also “the 103 Precinct, this community, the department and the city. But out of that terrible tragedy has come a lot of good, and the fact that you are all here in the middle of the night on a cold night is so much more powerful than any words I can utter.”
On Saturday, retired City and Nassau County cop Tina Swanno penned a tribute to Byrne on his Officer Down Memorial Page.
“His name is etched in my heart forever,” she wrote. “Eddie you became my hero that day and I make sure to pass on your name to all I teach now. Your shield was carried by Pres. Bush (#1) and the federal memorial grant in your name is still going strong. I saluted you as your funeral procession went by, holding back traffic as a Nassau cop and having been a city cop first I couldn’t hold back the tears. I am crying as I write this now. You became an icon for a generation of cops and pushed the NYPD to realize its tragic mistake leaving you alone that night and not knowing who that witness actually was testifying against…biggest dealer in Queens. You saved other cops from suffering a similar fate by making the NYPD change protocol. You can never be forgotten. I salute you again today!”
Though he had just seven months on the force at the time of his death, Bratton said Byrne made a difference.
“Eddie Byrne was a cop, his life counted, his life mattered.”