The gun found by NYPD divers in the Harlem River over the weekend has been identified through forensics testing as the one linked to the killing of Officer Randolph Holder last week and a prior shooting that preceded his death, officials said Monday.
Chief of Department James P. O'Neill confirmed the gun was the one "sought by detectives in connection" with the killing of Holder by suspect Tyrone Howard. O'Neill also disclosed details of the painstaking search by divers who found the weapon at a special news conference.
He wouldn't elaborate on the kind of testing done to confirm that the Glock handgun found in some 20 feet of water about 3 a.m. Sunday was the weapon sought after almost five days of dives. But a law enforcement official indicated those tests included DNA analysis and mechanical comparisons with a previously recovered pistol magazine, as well as ballistic tests on spent shell casings found at an earlier shooting Howard is suspected of committing at 102nd Street in East Harlem.
Members of the NYPD scuba team led by Capt. Anthony Russo displayed the equipment used in their dives, which involved remaining submerged in waters with a temperature of 63 degrees for prolonged periods off 120th Street and the FDR promenade. The divers used dry suits and complete scuba kits and special masks, which allowed them to speak to each other and officers in vessels, said Det. Brian Singer, a member of the unit.
Singer, who lives on Long Island but didn't want his hometown identified, said the divers set up a grid search crucial to making sure the river bottom was examined completely. Divers only had about 41/2 hours a day of slack tide to work. Divers relied mostly on hand "tactile" searches, he said.
The gun was recovered by Det. John Mortimer, who said he was on his stomach following a guideline when he spotted a "black firearm" about a foot away.
"I got it here," Mortimer remembered saying excitedly when he found the weapon.
The gun recovery helped buoy the mood of officers working the case as they prepare for the wake today and funeral Wednesday of Holder at Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, speaking at a Police Athletic League luncheon Monday, recalled how Holder made sure a man he had just arrested in a federal drug case was comfortable while lying facedown on the ground and shackled.
Holder leaned over to make sure the defendant was OK and because he was uncomfortable with his head on the cement "allowed him to lift his head and put it on his [Holder's] shoe," said Bharara.
"He was an officer and a gentleman," Bharara said.
With John Riley