A grim NYPD ritual was repeated for the fourth time in less than a year: The Police Department, as well as elected officials and community leaders, paid their respects to Randolph Holder, the police officer shot last week while pursuing a bicycle thief. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said, "The city—indeed this country—doesn’t know its cops until it’s too late."
Holder and his partner, Police Officer Omar Wallace, who were assigned to Police Service Area 5, covering the public housing in East Harlem, were responding to a report of shots fired at East 102nd and First Avenue on the evening of October 20th. There was also a report of a stolen bicycle, and Holder and Wallace chased the suspect on a bicycle to the pedestrian footpath near 120th Street over the FDR Drive. The suspect fired at the cops, and Holder was fatally struck in the head. Wallace managed to fire back, and the suspect, Tyrone Howard, was wounded and apprehended by other officers.
The funeral was held at Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, Queens. Thousands of officers, standing stoically in the rain, saluted the casket carrying Holder's body. Mayor Bill de Blasio reflected on Holder's path and commitment to public service, "We know our city lost a remarkable man - a man who made us better by his presence."
He was not about himself. Officer Randolph Holder was dedicated to others, to his family, and to all the people of this city. He was dedicated to making a difference in their lives. He believed he could accomplish a dream. It takes a strong man to dream and an even stronger one to accomplish it. He achieved his own vision for himself, and, at the same time, achieved today’s version of the American dream, 12 years ago, coming here from Guyana, joining his father in Far Rockaway, and determined - determined not just to carry on his father’s name, but to achieve the noble profession that his father pursued. He was determined to follow in the footsteps of his father, his grandfather, his great-uncle before him, to wear a police officer’s uniform.
Holder's fiancee Maryiane Muhammed told the mourners, "To simply wear the uniform of an officer is an act of courage. You have chosen to be both a target and a hero. It could be argued that to be a loved one of an officer, we choose the same fate, but let’s choose to be heroes." And his aunt, Margaret Holder, said, "He developed into a young man who was humble ... He often would be seen playing football with his friends and family members. At every family function he was the DJ. His personality had everyone who he encountered smiling and laughing. He listened and was never judgmental. He was a gentleman."
Bratton said, "One of Randy’s friends said, 'He loved the Job. It was what he wanted to do, being a cop. His dad was a cop, his grandfather was a cop. It was his family business.' His reward was a life that mattered, every day—a life of significance."
I’m told that at PSA 5 they called him the “Doctor.” They say he could memorize the faces in the neighborhood, routes they took, names and addresses. This was a useful talent for a Housing cop—for any cop. Transit, Patrol, Housing: the job is the same but the nuances differ.
Ask any Housing cop about the elevators, the stairwells, Pebble Beach. Ask about the thousands of good people in public housing, who struggle with the handful of bad ones, the ones we must do a much better job of excluding from the Housing Authority. Ask about the responsibility—keeping the many safe from the few. It’s what we do.
In five years at PSA 5, Randy had built a mental database: the good folks; the bad guys; the kids teetering on the edge between them. Like all cops, he was the balance between them, who lived as a guardian, watching over the good… and died as a warrior, fighting against the bad. Because being able to be both is part of what we do...
...Randy and his partner Omar knew what they were approaching that night—a shootout, a robbery, a man with a gun. They went towards the danger. They didn’t pull back. Why? It’s what we do.
Bratton announced that Holder would be posthumously promoted to First Grade Detective, with the shield number 9657, which was his father's shield number in Guyana. Bratton gave the shield to Randolph Holder Sr. and hugged him.
Bratton also shared the letter that Holder wrote as a new recruit, answering the question, "Why did you become a Police Officer?"
July 10, 2010
My name is Randolph Holder, born March 19, 1982 in Georgetown, Guyana. Growing up, all I wanted to do was to make a difference in my community and become a role model. In November of 2002 I migrated to the United States of America to live with Father.
My first real job was working as a security officer. Most of the managers were retired NYPD officers, and they always talked a lot about how they changed their communities. That’s when I decided I could be a role model and make a difference in my community and in New York City… In December, 2010, I will graduate from the NYPD Academy to become a police officer in the greatest police Department in the world.
For your information.
Probationary Police Officer
Bratton declared, "Randy, you were indeed a role model. You made a difference. You touched the lives of your family, your colleagues, your community, your city, and now your country. And from your loss we can take this: We can change the fact that the city came to know you too late."
Holder will be buried in Guyana.
In May, Police Officer Brian Moore died after being shot in the face while pursuing a suspect in Queens. In December, Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were executed while sitting in their police car in Brooklyn.