The man accused of trying to kill police officers in separate incidents in the Bronx has been charged with attempted murder.
Robert Williams, 45, was also charged with resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon. The NYPD says that Williams, who was captured after firing upon officers inside the 41st Precinct—striking one—on Sunday morning, is the same person who shot at officers in a marked police van on Saturday night, while the van was parked on Barretto Street and East 163rd Street.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Sunday that Williams had a "violent criminal history," noting that he had been convicted of attempted murder in 2002. "He shot an individual, he carjacked a woman escaping from it, and in the ensuing flight from that incident in 2002 he crashed the woman’s car that he carjacked, and got into a gun battle with New York City police officers," Shea said of the 2002 incident.
Williams was paroled in 2017, and Shea added, "Since then he has one recorded arrest and he happens to have court in the coming days for that arrest."
During the Sunday shooting inside the precinct on Longwood Avenue, police say that Williams kept firing and only laid down on the floor when his gun was out of bullets. A video appears to show the suspect firing and eventually being tackled and beaten by police:
The Post published photographs of Williams in the hospital: "Williams, who sources said suffered cuts and bruises during his arrest Sunday morning, is seen handcuffed to a hospital bed with his eyes swelled up and closed."
Officer Paul Stroffolino, who was sitting in the driver's seat of the van, was struck in the chin and neck, while Lieutenant Jose Gautreaux was hit in the arm. Stroffolino was released on Sunday, and Gautreaux is being released on Monday. Police officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio described the attacks as attempted assassinations.
Shea also linked recent protests about the over-policing of people of color to the violence against cops. "Just remember these things are not unrelated," Shea told reporters. "We had people marching through the streets of New York City recently. It brings me immediately back to 2014 where we had the same thing right before Ramos and Liu. We have people marching in New York City last week and I condemned it and I condemn it right here again today — using profanities against the Police Department. Everyone should be speaking out against this, and you have to be careful about the words you use whether it’s on social media or on written papers or speaking because words matter and words affect people’s behavior."
Decolonize This Place, which has been loosely organizing the FTP ("Fuck The Police") actions, offered a rebuke to Shea's comments, posting on Instagram. "We deplore this attempt to smear the FTP movement," they wrote. "Linking the right to protest and to take direct action with unassociated and random acts of violence is a well-worn, and gratuitous, tactic long used by authorities to suppress dissident speech."
"The pattern of racial profiling and brutality on the NYPD’s part stretches back for decades and is widely recognized as factual," they continued. "Against that backdrop, the decision by the Mayor and the Governor to garrison the public subways with a paramilitary presence is, at the very least, a provocation. But New Yorkers, especially Black and brown and poor people, have seen the move as something much worse, since these are the populations targeted for harassment and arrest by officers in recent months."
The Sergeants Benevolent Association, which represents NYPD sergeants, targeted the Mayor:
The SBA is led by Ed Mullins, who has repeatedly shared racist tropes on social media. Chief of the Department Terence Monahan's remarks in an interview with PIX 11 were more measured: "The cops are members of the community, and we all work together. We cannot have separate sides, we can't politicize every event that happens."
A woman who apparently drove Williams to the precinct is being questioned by police. According to the Daily News the woman is his "childhood friend, who he once dated... She was a 911 dispatch operator for part of 2019 but no longer works for the NYPD, sources said."
The woman's mother told the News, "My daughter’s a good girl, she has nothing to do with this. She’s a single mom, she takes care of her son and she goes to work every day... I told her to stay away from him. But my daughter had a soft spot."
Williams' grandmother said that her grandson had been "depressed" after his own son was killed on a Bronx street in 2018. "That was his only child," she told the NY Post.
Williams is being arraigned on Monday. His motive in the shootings is currently unclear.