This story was reported by John Asbury, Matthew Chayes, Anthony M. DeStefano, Lorena Mongelli and David Olson. It was written by Chayes.
An NYPD officer was "fighting for his life" following an ambush in which he was wounded, and a fellow cop shot dead, while responding to a mother-son dispute in Harlem, Mayor Eric Adams said Saturday.
Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, was the survivor; the other officer, Jason Rivera, 22, was killed. Both were struck early Friday evening by bullets fired by a man whose mother had called 911 seeking help dealing with him, according to the NYPD.
Adams, a retired NYPD captain, visited the Mora family at least twice at Harlem Hospital.
"We’re praying for their son to get through this moment. He’s fighting. He’s fighting hard. He’s holding on. And we want to be there for this family," Adams said Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, hours after his latest visit.
Mora was unconscious, according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, who also visited with Mora’s mother.
The man who police said shot the cops, Lashawn McNeil, 47, also was hospitalized, according to the NYPD. He was shot and critically wounded by a third officer who had responded to the original call, on West 135th Street near Malcolm X Boulevard.
Friday night's police shooting was the latest to occur in since Adams, who campaigned on a law-and-order platform, took office on New Year's Day. Hours after Adams was sworn in, a stray bullet struck an officer napping between shifts in a precinct parking lot. As for the shooting of Rivera and Mora, the two were the third and fourth cops shot in the city over the prior week.
Friday's shooting happened as the officers walked down a narrow hall toward a bedroom, from which McNeil opened fire, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Friday night.
Adams said police initially went to the home after being summoned by the mother, who did not mention any weapons when calling 911.
"The mother was not really specific. She just stated that she was ill. Her son was coming up to take care of her, and he became problematic. She didn’t drill into the specificity of being problematic, on the 911 tapes," he said.
The NYPD said that both officers lived in Manhattan.
Rivera joined the department on Nov. 2, 2020, and was assigned to the 32nd Precinct in May 2021. Mora joined on Oct. 24, 2018, and also was assigned to the precinct in November 2019.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, Rivera and Mora’s labor union, said Saturday that officers from precincts elsewhere in the city are covering for the 32nd Precinct, so those cops can observe vigil at the hospital.
"We're gonna need help for a family that's in the hospital for a long recovery. We hope there's a long recovery. We want a long recovery," Lynch said.
On Friday, there were conflicting press reports in the immediate aftermath of the shooting on the number of officers killed and McNeil's condition, including that the shooting had killed two cops and a civilian suspect.
Gun recovered at scene
Chief of Detectives James Essig said Friday night that police recovered a handgun at the scene with a high-capacity illegal magazine that had been stolen in 2017 from Baltimore.
A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the gun had been reported stolen by a woman, but it was unclear how it got to McNeil.
The spent shell casings from Friday night are to be analyzed through a special federal program called "brass catcher" to determine whether the gun was used at any other crime scene, said the official. The shooting was captured on body-worn cameras, and the videos will likely be disclosed to the public at some point.
Essig said McNeil has one prior conviction in the city, in 2003 for narcotics, for which he was sentenced to probation. There also were four out-of-state arrests, including in 1998 in South Carolina for unlawful possession of a weapon, and in 2002 for assaulting a police officer. The dispositions of those cases were not immediately available.
In an interview Saturday, McNeil’s brother Ronnie said he hadn’t spoken to his brother for about a year and did not know about the shooting until a reporter's call.
He said he did not know why his brother was in New York; the last he had heard, his brother was in Baltimore.
"It’s heartbreaking," Ronnie McNeil said. "That’s my brother."
McNeil said his brother is the unmarried father of five in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Ronnie McNeil said his brother often moved from city to city and had trouble with drug charges but never had a violent background.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the officers’ families and I definitely have sympathy for them," Ronnie McNeil said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, speaking at an event in Buffalo on Saturday morning, invoked the shooting in calling for stricter gun control. She noted that her recently introduced budget proposal would triple spending on gun interdiction efforts.
Speaking of the shooting, she said: "It’s also a resounding call to action. … We have to do more to fight the scourge of illegal guns on our streets, and we need Washington teaming up with us, teaming up with locals, to get it done."
Dolan said both of the officers are Roman Catholic, and he recounted what he told Mora’s mother.
"I said to Wilbur's mother, ‘You're like Mary at the foot of the cross, there when her son Jesus was dying, and we hope, we trust, that he [Mora] will not die, but if he does, he's part of the Resurrection,’" he said, adding: "And she's a woman of faith, and everybody was saying that to her, do not be afraid, do not give up hope."
Across the street from Harlem Hospital was a rally sponsored by the activist Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network group. Among those who spoke was Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who was killed during an arrest by an NYPD officer in 2014.
"This should not have been. Those police officers should not have been shot. One upstairs fighting for his life, the other one has lost his life … [he] was a baby," she said. "That's someone's child, that's someone's brother, someone's nephew. The violence in this city, this has to stop, all violence, not just police violence, it's killing our society."
Later, about 200 people gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the precinct, among them firefighters and cops, as well as Adams and the state attorney general, Letitia James.
The mayor along with other community and religious leaders joined together in prayer while making a heartfelt plea to stop violence and vowing to support police officers.
Two other NYPD officers were shot in separate incidents in the Bronx and on Staten Island earlier in the week. Both survived, police said.