Detectives were "aggressively looking" for an East Harlem man in connection with a September shooting at the time officials suspect he fatally shot a housing bureau officer Tuesday night, NYPD officials said Wednesday.
Police charged Tyrone Howard, 30, with first-degree murder Wednesday night in connection with the killing of Officer Randolph Holder near an East Harlem public housing complex. Howard was arraigned at about 10:30 p.m. in a Manhattan Criminal Court packed with NYPD officers.
Earlier Wednesday, officials said they were on the hunt for Howard because they suspected he pulled the trigger Sept. 1 in a drug-related shooting in the East River Houses in East Harlem -- months after being in a diversion program.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton and other officials questioned why Howard was allowed to enter the program after a drug bust despite a lengthy criminal record.
Bratton criticized the ex-con's placement in the program, and de Blasio, while saying he had no details about how a judge handled Howard's case, told reporters, "I do know that he shouldn't have been on the streets."
Chief of Detectives William Aubry said investigators were searching for Howard in the September shooting in the East River Houses that left a 28-year-old victim wounded.
"We have evidence which supports charging him for that shooting," Aubry said.
Aubry said Howard grew up in the East River Houses and detectives also suspect him in the 2009 shooting of an 11-year-old victim.
"You are talking about an individual who was arrested 28 times since the age of 13," Aubry said. "He was trying to avoid us since Sept. 1. And if you look at his life, he has been in and out of jail quite often."
Holder was the fourth NYPD officer killed in the line of duty in less than a year.
Officers placed Howard in custody not long after the shooting and took him to the NYPD's 25th Precinct, just blocks from where he allegedly shot Holder.
Howard also faces a robbery charge, which Holder and his partner, Officer Omar Wallace, were investigating at the time of the shooting, police said.
At Howard's arraignment, Judge Guy Mitchell ordered him to be held without bail. Howard did not enter a plea as NYPD officers watched in a packed courtroom. He didn't speak and struggled to stand up.
Howard's attorney, Brian Kennedy of Manhattan said of the allegations, "it is what it is" but he stressed that Howard has "no violent felony convictions" in his record.
"There are a lot of details that we don't yet know in this tragic event," Kennedy said.
The case will be heard by a grand jury Friday and Monday.
Hours before, Aubry gave a detailed account of the violent 13 minutes that ended with Holder dying from a head wound on an East Harlem street.
Two plainclothes housing officers on the roof of 420 E. 102nd St. saw a group of men on the street shooting at each other. Howard was one of the men, police said.
He fled north on a promenade between the FDR Drive and the East River, Aubry said.
At East 106th Street, Howard stole a bicycle at gunpoint from a man and continued north, the chief said. Meanwhile, Holder and Wallace had been following three men across a walkway over the drive at East 120th Street, believing mistakenly that the men were part of the group that had exchanged gunfire, Aubry said.
As the two plainclothes officers made their way down a walkway ramp, Aubry said, they crossed paths with Howard, pedaling north on the stolen bicycle.
"When Tyrone approaches them on the bicycle," the chief said, "he puts the bike down, he pulls out his weapon and he fires one time, striking the officer in the front of the head."
Howard then approached Wallace and the officer opened fire, Aubry said.
He fled north on the promenade. He was arrested between East 124th and East 125th streets, Aubry said.
Howard sustained a gunshot wound to the leg that investigators said came from Wallace's weapon.
Police said they recovered a .40-caliber magazine from the East River, and divers continued their hunt for the gun Wednesday.
Holder, 33, a native of Guyana, came from a police family, Bratton said. His father and grandfather worked as police officers in Guyana, Bratton said, and Holder joined the NYPD in 2010.
Since then, the unmarried Brooklyn resident had logged more than 100 arrests and earned six commendations, officials said.
The NYPD said visitation for Holder is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, at Community Church of the Nazarene, 1414 Central Ave. in Far Rockaway. Holder's funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the church.
Bratton told reporters the killing of any officer can bring out the best in police and the public.
"In some respects it washes away for a period of time so much of the negativism that has dominated the discussion over these last couple of years," Bratton said.
Bratton referred to the death of "our officer." But then he paused and corrected himself.
"He was a New York City police officer," Bratton said. "He was mine. He was ours, but he was yours also."