The New York City Police Department has a problem: three officers in the span of a week have drunkenly fired their weapons at people, in one case striking a man six times as he sat in a car.
“These unfortunate incidents highlight the reality that lack of accountability at the NYPD has enabled a culture in which some officers believe they are above the law,” Priscilla Gonzalez of Communities United for Police Reform told The Huffington Post.
In the bloodiest incident, authorities say an off-duty cop shot a random motorist six times on Tuesday in Westchester County after drinking at a bar with colleagues.
NYPD Officer Brendan Cronin, 27, was arrested and charged with assault in the first degree. The New York Times reports Cronin allegedly pulled up to a traffic light a little before midnight Tuesday in Pelham, at the corner of Lincoln and Sixth Avenues, and fired his 9 millimeter Glock handgun at another car. The motive for the shooting is unclear.
According to The New York Post, Cronin had started his day at a shooting range with other off-duty cops and ended it at a bar, where he downed more than a few drinks.
The victim, 47-year-old Joe Felice, was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend's car when he heard the gunshots. Upon realizing he'd been shot, he slid down in his seat, where he was struck five more times. Another bullet hit the headrest where his head had been moments before.
His friend then drove Felice to Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, where he was treated for six gunshot wounds in his torso, arms, and lungs. Felice is in stable condition.
Cronin drove away from the shooting. A short time later, motorists called 911 to report a car driving erratically with its hazard lights on. When cops chased down and stopped the vehicle, Cronin was inside. He brandished his gun out the window before officers eventually got him to toss the weapon to the ground.
AM New York reports police later recovered 13 shell casings from the crime scene.
"The initial indication is that this was a random act,” said Pelham Police Chief Joseph Benefico, according to The New York Daily News. “We have not been able to find any link between the two persons."
Cronin pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and is being held on $250,000 bond. According to the Post, Cronin, who refused a Breathalyzer test, doesn't remember firing his weapon, and Bratton said he is believed to have been drunk.
Three hours after the shooting in Pelham, another off-duty NYPD officer allegedly opened fire at her boyfriend and another woman outside a Somerset, New Jersey strip club. No one was injured. Sgt. Wanda Anthony allegedly fled the scene and was arrested three hours later for drunk driving.
Last Thursday, a third off-duty NYPD cop, Det. Jay Poggi, accidentally shot his partner in the wrist after a night of drinking in the Rockaways. The two officers had each reportedly downed 11 drinks.
The three booze-fueled shootings prompted NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to announce in a statement that he is "personally... very disturbed about a number of incidents in recent weeks that are part of a long-term problem of inappropriate use of alcohol by members of the department.”
Gonzalez said the department has some work to do.
“The long-term task of establishing meaningful accountability for the police department is essential to repairing the relationship between communities and the NYPD," she said.