Bronx Ambush

Suspect in Targeted Police Shootings Smiles at Family in Court as NYPD Stays on Alert

The police department issued a memo Thursday for officers to "remain vigilant" and deployed extra officers across the city

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The man accused of last week's targeted shootings of cops appeared in court Friday on attempted murder and other charges.

During Robert Williams' arraignment earlier this week, prosecutors said the 45-year-old suspect threatened from his hospital bed to shoot more officers if he was released from police custody.

At Friday's hearings, Williams — dressed in an orange jumpsuit — was once again remanded before a subsequent court hearing was scheduled for March 6.

As he was being led out of court, Williams' family screamed "I love you." The alleged shooter smiled at family members while dozens of officers crowed in the courtroom. His family declined to talk with the media after the hearing.

Outside the Bronx courthouse, Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York, said they were grateful Williams was remanded.

"We are in a dangerous time in this city," Lynch went on to say, asking police officers to remain vigilant and the community to report any suspicious activity. "As we know, there was an assassin walking our streets."

Lynch said that given Williams' mental state — friends say he had fallen into deep despair since his teenage son died while handling a gun on a Bronx street and it went off — that he should "get treatment" while in prison.

"Unfortunately losing a child, there’s nothing worse, I could not imagine," Lynch said. "But the families deal with that, they don’t go out and try to assassinate police officers.”

Williams, of the Bronx, was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder. He is accused of approaching a police patrol van on Saturday night and firing at two officers inside, wounding one before escaping on foot, and also of opening fire Sunday morning at the 41st precinct headquarters, where he wounded a police lieutenant before being arrested.

The shootings have led to recriminations from police officials and union leaders who criticized recent demonstrations as creating an “anti-police" atmosphere, as well as pushback to that characterization from police reform advocates who said making that connection was irresponsible.

Williams was also remanded into custody after his initial appearance. He was represented in court by an attorney from The Bronx Defenders.

“There is still much that we don't know about what happened and what led up to this incident,” attorney Tom Klein previously said in a statement. “We look forward to investigating and learning more so that we can best represent Mr. Williams."

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 from prison in 2017.

Williams allegedly made a rambling statement after he was taken into custody for this weekend’s shooting, telling arresting officers that he was mad at police because of a previous encounter with cops two years ago, senior law enforcement officials told NBC New York.

He was reportedly jolted with an electric stun gun during a 2018 DWI arrest.

The New York City Police Department continued to be on high alert a week after a man ambushed officers in a patrol van and then at a precinct -- and police say they were investigating another alleged threat from Thursday night.

Law enforcement sources tell NBC New York that police questioned a man who boasted about wanting to shoot a police officer. However, they say the threat from the suspected gang member appeared to be unsubstantiated. Out of an abundance of caution, the department issued a memo Thursday for officers to "remain vigilant" and deployed extra officers across the city.

Lynch reiterated the warning on Friday, saying that officers "need to be ready at any moment whether you have 30 days on the job or 30 years."

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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