'Absolute Tragedy': NYPD Officer Killed by Friendly Fire During Struggle With Suspect in Bronx

Brian Mulkeen, 33, was shot three times and killed during a struggle with a suspect in the Bronx early Sunday

What to Know

  • NYPD officer Brian Mulkeen died after a struggle with a suspect early Sunday in the morning; he was 33 years old
  • Mulkeen and other officers were on anti-gang patrol at the Edenwald Houses in the Bronx, the NYPD said
  • During the struggle, Mulkeen was hit by friendly fire and he later died at a local hospital, according to police

An NYPD officer grappling with an armed man died early Sunday in the Bronx after being killed by friendly fire, Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced Monday. 

The 27-year-old suspect also died after five officers fired at him, police officials said. The NYPD identified the slain officer as 33-year-old Brian Mulkeen. 

Mulkeen retained possession of his own fire arm during entire struggle with the suspect, O'Neill said, adding Mulkeen fired five rounds at the suspect. 

According to O'Neill, the suspect did not fire his weapon. The investigation did find that Mulkeen's partners fired a total of 10 rounds "and two of those rounds struck Officer Mulkeen," who was hit in the head and torso, the medical examiner determined.

"This is a tragic case of friendly fire, but make no mistake, we lost the life of a courageous public servant solely due to a violent criminal who put the lives of the police and all the people we serve in jeopardy," O'Neill said.

Deputy Chief Kevin Maloney, of the Force Investigation Division, said that the investigation of the footage captured by the officers' body cameras is still under review.

In a previous news conference outside Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, Mayor de Blasio said the city "lost a hero." 

Hundreds of NYPD officers lined the street, standing in emotional salute, as Mulkeen's body was escorted from the medical examiner's office Monday morning to a funeral home; traffic was shut down as the fallen officer was honored with a water cannon tribute as the caravan carrying his body drove along the highway. 

Mulkeen was patrolling the streets around a city apartment complex at around 12:30 a.m. as part of a unit investigating potential gang activity, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said. 

Mulkeen and his partner tried to apprehend a man who had fled questioning, and a struggle on the ground ensued, Monahan said. 

As the men wrestled, Mulkeen's body camera recorded him saying, "He's reaching for it! He's reaching for it!" 

"Officer Mulkeen's gun fired five times," Monahan said. "At this point, it is not clear who fired Officer Mulkeen's gun." 

A .32-caliber revolver that police say belonged to the man was recovered. It had not been fired, Monahan said. 

Monahan said the suspect, identified by law enforcement officials as Antonio Williams of Binghamton, was on probation until 2022 for a narcotics-related arrest last year and had several prior arrests, including a burglary conviction in Rockland County. 

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said in a statement that anyone looking to "blame the cops ... needs to swallow thier rhetoric and look at the facts" as details of the fatal shooting continue to unfold.

"Brian Mulkeen and his fellow police officers worked without a script and faced unknown dangers to protect innocent New Yorkers. As a result, they wound up in a life-or-death fight with an armed career criminal," Lynch said in a statement. "That perp is the one who carried an illegal gun onto our streets. He is the one who chose to fight with the cops. He is solely responsible for our hero brother’s death.”

Mulkeen had served nearly seven years with the department and worked out of the 47th precinct. He lived with his girlfriend, an NYPD police officer in the Bronx's 44th precinct. 

Monahan called the officer "brave," and said he was "doing the job we asked him to do, a job that New Yorkers needed him to do." 

The track and field program at Fordham University in the Bronx posted that Mulkeen was an alumnus, and had recently become a volunteer coach. The program said that as a student, he was part of the 2008 team that won the Metropolitan Outdoor Track & Field Championship, a first for the program. 

"He was a remarkable human being. Everybody loved him," the slain officer's father, also Brian Mulkeen, told the New York Post. 

Gov. Cuomo, at an unrelated event, said Mulkeen "made the greatest sacrifice. He put his life on the line and he lost it in service to the people of this city." 

Mulkeen is the second NYPD officer killed in the line of duty, following Det. Brian Simonsen, who was also accidentally shot by fellow officers in February while confronting a robbery suspect. 

"In every incident that happens in the NYPD there is the opportunity to learn and to move forward adn get better at what we do," O'Neill said during Monday's press conference. "This is an absolute tragedy."

The NYPD has had a difficult year, with a number of tragic deaths.

"We've been here too often. We know the directions to get here," Pat Lynch, the president of New York City's Police Benevolent Association, said at the press conference. "It has to stop." 

Mulkeen's death comes as the NYPD has declared a mental health emergency amid a spate of suicides by police officers. Nine NYPD officers have taken their own lives this year, a disturbing trend that is also happening throughout the country.

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