A police officer was shot and killed early Wednesday while sitting in a police vehicle in the Bronx, in what the New York City police commissioner called an “unprovoked attack.”
The gunman was killed, the police said.
The officer, Miosotis Familia, 48, was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about three hours after the shooting.
The attack came at the close of Fourth of July celebrations; several witnesses said they had been setting off fireworks when the police suddenly swarmed the area. It immediately revived memories of ambush-style killings of police officers, including in Brooklyn in 2014and in Iowa last year.
Officer Familia, who was in uniform, had been sitting in a mobile command unit — a truck-size police vehicle that is big enough to house equipment and several officers — on the south side of East 183rd Street, near Creston Avenue, in the Fordham Heights neighborhood.
Around 12:30 a.m., as Officer Familia neared the end of her shift, the gunman walked up to the vehicle and fired a single round from a .38-caliber, five-shot Ruger revolver through a passenger-side window, according to Deputy Chief Jason Wilcox, the commander of detectives in the Bronx.
Immediately after the shooting, Officer Familia’s partner, Vincent Maher, called for assistance, and two other officers encountered the suspect, who was running on Morris Avenue, about one block away. When the gunman drew a silver revolver, they opened fire, killing him.
A bystander was struck by a bullet in that shootout, and is in stable condition, said the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill.
“Based on what we know right now, this was an unprovoked attack against police officers who want to keep this great city safe,” Commissioner O’Neill said at a news conference at the hospital, where Officer Familia was pronounced dead at 3:37 a.m. Outside, a line of officers saluted their fallen colleague; some escorted her body to the medical examiner’s officer.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at the same news conference, praised Officer Familia and expressed the city’s grief.
“She was on duty, serving this city, protecting people, doing what she believed in and doing the job she loved,” he said. “And after this shocking and sudden attack her fellow officers came to her aid immediately.”
Officer Familia was a 12-year veteran of the police force, assigned to the anti-crime unit of the 46th Precinct.
Chief Wilcox, asked whether the attack could be characterized as an assassination, replied, “Everything is pointing to that.”
The gunman was identified as Alexander Bonds, 34, who also uses the name John Bonds.
At one point, Mr. Bonds lived at a homeless shelter on East 53rd Street in Manhattan, but he lived more recently in the Bronx. A police spokesman said there was no indication that Mr. Bonds had known Officer Familia.
A police vehicle sat in front of Mr. Bonds’s apartment building, on the Rev. James A. Polite Avenue, on Wednesday morning.
A neighbor, Marta Perez, 29, a stay-at-home mom, said the suspect had moved into a second-floor apartment with his girlfriend about five months ago. Police officers flooded the block around 3 a.m., she said, and took his girlfriend in for questioning.
“He didn’t talk,” Ms. Perez said. “I saw him when he did food shopping with his girl. He was funny, strange funny — the way he looked at us. He played Spanish music all the time, but when he came outside he was funny-acting. Anytime he walked upstairs he wouldn’t say ‘Excuse me.’ ”
Witnesses in Fordham Heights said the violence had brought an abrupt end to what had been a leisurely holiday evening, with dancing and fireworks.
“At first I thought they were fireworks,” Roma Martinez, a longtime resident who was nearby when he heard gunfire. “I don’t know how many gunshots.”
He added: “Within two or three minutes, the streets were completely filled with officers. After, we all left. The party was over.”
Mr. Martinez said the neighborhood suffered from drug and gun violence. He said that he did not know Officer Familia, but that she had a reputation as “a good police woman” who spoke Spanish.
Joshua Lopez, 17, a Harlem resident who was with friends when the attack occurred, recalled: “We were shooting fireworks, chilling, and then we saw the cops come.” . Amid the noise, he said, they did not hear the gunshots. But then they saw dozens of police cars, he said, driving toward the scene.
His friend Rondo Round, 22, said he had been kept waiting by the police, who wanted him to give a statement. “I’m tired,” he said. “I want to go home. They think I saw everything. But I didn’t see nothing. I wasn’t out here by that time. After fireworks, I went to go eat, and that’s all I know.”
Mr. Round, who lives in the neighborhood, added: “This hood is not bad. We’re good people out here, just chilling and celebrating with fireworks. Yesterday was supposed to just be a holiday and a celebration.”
Mr. Round, who said he had recently spent time in prison on an attempted-murder charge, said that many residents distrusted the police. “The cop is just another regular human but they — the cops — don’t come out like this for regular humans,” he said.
The shooting was chillingly reminiscent of an ambush on Dec. 20, 2014, when two officers — Wenjian Liu and Rafael L. Ramos — sitting in a patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn were fatally shot at point-blank range by a man who had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had a history of mental illness, then killed himself with the same gun.
Deadly attacks on the police received new attention when two officers were shot and killed in Des Moines and Urbandale, adjacent cities in Iowa, by a man who had ambushed them in separate attacks while they sat in their patrol cars on Nov. 2. The gunman was sentenced to life in prison.
The most recent New York City police officer to be killed at the scene of a violent confrontation was Sgt. Paul J. Tuozzolo, who, along with colleagues, confronted a suspect who had held his estranged wife and relatives hostage. That killing, on Nov. 4, also occurred in the Bronx — about two miles from the site of the shooting on Wednesday.
Patrick J. Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the labor union for the city’s police officers, expressed outrage after the shooting of Officer Familia.
“This kind of violence against police officers cannot stand,” he said. “We need the public’s help. When you see someone that’s making threats, doing something against police officers, you need to let us know. You need to be our eyes and ears. We also have to remember the hundreds of police officers that are here now with their heads bowed in sorrow.”