What to Know
- A NYPD lieutenant was shot Sunday morning in the Bronx, following an earlier attack on two uniformed officers Saturday night
- The attacks happened in the same precinct, just blocks from each other and less than 12 hours apart
- The NYPD believes Robert Williams is behind both attacks and faces a slew of charges, including attempted murder of an officer
A family friend who drove the suspect allegedly responsible for shooting two NYPD officers over the weekend to a Bronx precinct denied having any knowledge of what the man had planned, she said in an exclusive interview with NBC New York.
The woman, who only wanted to be identified as Liza, said she couldn't believe that it was her friend who was charged with shooting the two cops over a 12-hour span.
"I can’t believe it happened. I couldn’t sleep last night. It feels surreal," Liza told NBC New York. "I couldn’t believe that the person I know was doing that and that I just drove him there without knowing and that made me feel extra bad. I felt terrible."
Liza said that Robert Williams, a friend since childhood, asked for a ride to his mother's home Sunday morning — a request that wasn't out of the ordinary, as he doesn't drive and had asked for rides in the past. Williams made no mention of what had happened Saturday night when police say he opened fire on two officers.
The two were en route to his mother's home when he asked her to stop as they were in front of the 41st Precinct in the Soundview neighborhood. Williams got out of the white BMW from the passenger's side and walked away, so Liza said she waited for him.
"When I stopped, he just kind of got out. So when he got out, I was stuck there like, what’s going on," she told News 4. "So I waited for him. I wasn’t going to leave him.”
She had the radio on and was checking her phone when she then saw a flood of police heading right for her, some of whom had their guns drawn. Liza put her arms up and was questioned by police, though was never put under arrest. She told them that was unaware of anything Williams had just done or was planning to do.
Liza once worked for the NYPD as a civilian dispatcher and said what got her through the whole ordeal was knowing she did nothing wrong — but did say she felt betrayed and "hurt" by a friend she was just trying to help.
"It was just a whole bunch of disappointment, rage, and fear," she said. "I was there for a long time and it’s a very scary situation.”
Williams, of the Bronx, was captured after he walked into a police station in the Bronx and started shooting shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday, police said. His shots struck Lieutenant Jose Gautreaux in the arm and narrowly missed other police personnel before he ran out of bullets, lay down and tossed his pistol.
According to two senior law enforcement officials, Williams allegedly said as part of a rambling statement to officers after his arrest that he was mad at the police, in part because he was jolted with an electric stun gun during a 2018 DWI arrest.
The first attack happened just before 8:30 p.m. Saturday, when the gunman walked up to the van asking the officers for directions and then fired shots, grazing Paul Stroffolino, who was released from the hospital Sunday to applause from colleagues, authorities said.
Stroffolino and his partner for eight years, Brian Hanlon, a friend since middle school, hit the gas to get away. Neither fired a shot.
Police released a photo of the suspect and were combing the city for him when he walked into the police station coordinating the manhunt, strolled to the desk and pulled a gun, authorities said. The wounded lieutenant returned fire but missed, and police personnel dashed out of an adjoining room just in time to avoid the pursuing gunman.
All of those shot are expected to recover, authorities said. Gautreaux was released from the hospital on Monday.
According to Williams' grandmother, Williams had been upset since his own son died after being shot in the Bronx.
Williams was arraigned on multiple charges including attempted murder of a police officer, attempted murder, weapons possession and resisting arrest. After the court appearance, Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch put the onus on prosecutors to "do their job" and keep Williams behind bars.
Williams was remanded into custody after his appearance and is due back in court on Feb. 14. He was represented in court by an attorney from The Bronx Defenders.