Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
Crime and Courts

‘Violent’ Man Accused in Bronx Shooting Ambush on NYPD Officers Pleads Not Guilty

Robert Williams was arrested Feb. 9 after police say he ran out of bullets, laid down on the floor of a Bronx stationhouse and threw his pistol aside

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A man with a "very, very violent past" suspected of opening fire on an NYPD van and a police station last month, wounding an officer and a lieutenant, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted murder charges.

Robert Williams' arraignment drew around 100 police officers and union leaders to a Bronx courthouse, standing in solidarity with the victims of the attacks, both of whom were treated and released from hospitals.

Williams, 45, was arrested Feb. 9 after police say he ran out of bullets, laid down on the floor of the 41st precinct station house and threw his pistol aside. He's been jailed at the city's notorious Rikers Island complex ever since and is due back in court in May.

A telephone message seeking comment was left with Williams' lawyer. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clarke said that he will prosecute him "to the fullest extent," and called Williams' actions an abomination.

"Fortunately this mission to massacre police officers failed," said Clarke. "Besides these attacks, particularly the ambush in the police station, was not less than an abomination ... Mr. Williams is actually pretty lucky that he didn’t get killed himself, because the police exercised incredible restraint."

Williams is accused of shooting at officers in a police van on Feb. 8 in Longwood, striking Officer Paul Strofolino in the neck area. In a police station the next morning, nearly 12 hours after his first attack, he fired multiple rounds and wounded Officer Jose Gautreaux in the right arm. He said he would shoot more officers if he could, according to police. As he left the courtroom Wednesday, Williams' family shouted "We love you, Bobby."

Police said Williams had a long criminal history, including a 2002 shooting and carjacking in which he fired a gun at police. He was paroled in 2017 after an attempted murder conviction.

"The defendant has a long criminal history. He’s got 14 arrests, he’s got numerous felony convictions dating back until 2002," said NYPD Dep. Chief Timothy McCormack. "He has a very, very violent past."

After the arraignment, Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said he was glad Williams will remain locked up considering recent reforms that eliminated pretrial detention in many cases, which the union railed against.

"Police officers and the public do not want evil walking our streets," Lynch said.

Williams' grandmother said he been upset since his own son died after being shot in the Bronx.

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