Two New York City police officers were suspended after witnesses said they failed to leave their car to check on a young woman who was later found dead at the bottom of a stairwell.
The woman’s husband, Barry Wells, faces charges in her death, police said.
On Wednesday morning, a neighbor called police when she heard Tonie Wells, 22, scream, “Help me, he’s going to kill me” during an argument with her husband in their Brooklyn home, 1010 WINS radio reported.
According to “preliminary reports I received, they did not exit the vehicle and that’s troubling,” said the Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams.
After authorities received a second phone call from a neighbor, who said the Wells’ 2-year-old daughter was crying, additional police officers responded. They found Tonie Wells unresponsive at the bottom of a stairwell in the brownstone where she lived with her husband. She had bruising around her neck, police said, and was declared dead at the scene.
The 2-year-old, who was physically unhurt, was found crying near her mother’s body. She’s now staying with relatives.
Barry Wells, 29, was first transported to an area hospital after he told police he had taken pills in a suicide attempt. This turned out not to be true, chief of detectives Robert Boyce said at a press conference on Thursday.
“Mr. Wells did make statements about the problems they had,” Boyce said. “They had an on-again, off-again, living arrangement.”
Barry Wells was free on $5,000 bail on charges that he choked his wife in September. He is currently in police custody and will be charged after investigators receive autopsy results.
Boyce said tracking the trouble in the couple’s relationship may have been complicated by the fact that Barry Wells was arrested in September in Manhattan while his wife was staying there with her mother, but the latest incident occurred at their home in Brooklyn.
An investigation into the actions of the two first police responders is ongoing, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
“I talk about my pride in the NYPD each and every day,” O’Neill said at the press conference. “If, unfortunately, there are times that we don’t live up to that standard, it’s up to us to make sure that we fully investigate that. And if discipline needs to be dealt out, we’ll do that.”
Barry Wells proposed to Tonie by hiding an engagement ring inside a food delivery package. A video of the proposal was posted on Facebook:
The couple wed in April.
In another Facebook post last year, Wells urged men to treat the mother of their children with respect: