'The NYPD really bothered me': Letter written by slain rookie cop, 22, reveals he was stopped and harassed by police growing up in Manhattan - but decided to join the force when he saw it changing for the better
- Jason Rivera, 22, who was shot and killed on Friday in Harlem, had joined the NYPD in 2020 in order to help unite residents with their local police
- In his letter to the police academy, Rivera said he hoped to mend the relationship between the public and police after the troubled Stop and Frisk Era
- The young immigrant also hoped to be the first in his family to become a cop
- Rivera and his partner, Wilber Mora, 27, were shot by convicted felon Lashawn McNeal, 27, who previously posted anti-cop propaganda on Facebook
- McNeal had been arguing with his mother over his vegan diet when she called police about domestic violence
- The mom allegedly knew her son had carried guns but did not believe him to be armed on Friday night
- Police recovered the illegal Glock used in the shooting, which was equipped high 'high capacity magazine'
NYPD Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was shot to death while out on a call in Harlem on Friday
'Why I became an officer': Jason Rivera's letter to NYPD Police Academy in 2020
In a 2020 letter to the NYPD police academy, Jason River wrote:
'When I applied to become a police officer, I knew this was the career for me. I would be the first person in my family to become a police officer. Coming from an immigrant family, I will be the first to say that I am a member of the NYPD - the greatest police force in the world. Growing up in New York City, I realized how impactful my role as a police officer would go in this chaotic city of about 10 million people. I know that something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue, would put a smile on someone's face.
'Growing up in Inwood, Manhattan, the community's relationship between the police and the community was not great. I remember one day when I witnessed my brother being stopped and frisked. I asked myself, why are we being pulled over if we are in a taxi?I was too young to know that during that time, the NYPD was pulling over and frisking people at a high rate. My perspective on police and the way they police really bothered me. As time went on, I saw the NYPD pushing hard on changing the relationship between the police and the community. This was when I realized that I wanted to be a part of the men in blue; better the relationship between the community and the police.'
The 22-year-old New York City police officer who was shot to death while responding to a call in a Harlem apartment Friday night came from an immigrant family and grew up in a community with strained police relations, but joined the force to make a difference in the 'chaotic city,' he once wrote.
Jason Rivera, of Inwood, wrote that he was inspired to join the NYPD after seeing how troubled the relationship was between his local community and the police department during the city's controversial Stop and Frisk era.
Rivera said he was bothered by how he viewed the police and how they viewed him and his community, and he saw the NYPD trying to reform, and he wanted to be part of the change.
'My perspective on police and the way they police really bothered me.'
'This is when I realized that I wanted to be part of the men in blue; better the relationship between the community and the police.'
But on Friday night, Rivera was shot and killed and his and partner, Officer Wilber Mora, 27, was critically injured by Lashawn J. McNeil, 47, a convicted felon out on probation who spread anti-cop propaganda and carried a Glock 45 equipped with a high capacity 40-round magazine.
Rivera and Mora were answering a call about an argument between McNeil and his mother about his vegan diet, police officials said.
They are the fourth and fifth officers shot so far this year - by comparison, last year, a total of 10 police officers were shot in the entire state of New York.
Mayor Eric Adams - an ex NYPD officer, who only took office three weeks ago - angrily declared at the Harlem hospital that the violence must stop.
'It is our city against the killers,' he said.
'This is not just an attack on three brave officers. This was an attack on the city of New York.'
The shooting is the latest in a string of crimes that have unnerved the nation's largest city.
In the three weeks since Adams took office, a 19-year-old cashier was shot to death as she worked a late-night shift at a Burger King, a woman was pushed to her death in a subway station, and a baby was critically injured when she was hit by a stray bullet as she sat in a parked car with her mother.
With the Harlem shooting Friday night, four police officers had been shot in as many days.
In his 2020 letter to the police academy, River wrote: 'Coming from an immigrant family, I will be the first to say that I am a member of the NYPD - the greatest police force in the world.'
'Growing up in Inwood, Manhattan, the community's relationship between the police and community was not great,' Rivera wrote in a letter to the police academy after he became a cop in November 2020.
First responders saluted Rivera's body as it was carried out on Friday night
Rivera and his partner Wilbert Mora are the fourth and fifth officers shot so far this year - by comparison, last year, a total of 10 police officers were shot in the entire state of New York
A copy of Jason Rivera's letter to the New York Police Academy about why he became an officer
Lashawn J. McNeil (left), 47, a convicted felon that spread anti-cop propaganda, shot and killed Rivera and injured his partner Wilbert Mora, who signed up in 2018
Police recovered an illegal Glock 45 at the scene, equipped with a 'high capacity magazine.' The drum magazine gives a gun 40 additional rounds, allowing the user to fire a total of 50 rounds
In 2014, McNeil had shared the controversial music video, 'Hands Up' by Uncle Murda & Maino, which depicts violence against white police officers
LASHAWN J. MCNEIL'S CRIMINAL RAP SHEET
Lashawn McNeil, 47, was well known to NYPD officers, who were called to his family's New York City house on a domestic violence claim in August
The felon has had five arrests in three different states between 1998 and 2003
1998: McNeil was arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon in South Carolina
Records show that the matter was dismissed
2002: He was arrested for assaulting a police officer in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he had a registered address
2003: He was also arrested twice on a felony drug charge and a misdemeanor narcotics charge in Pennsylvania
That same year, he was arrested and convicted of a felony narcotics charge in New York City, which he was still serving probation for
'I remember my brother being stopped and frisked... I was too young to know that during that time, the NYPD was pulling over and frisking people at a high rate.'
'Growing up in New York City, I knew how impactful my role as a police officer would go in this chaotic city of about 10 million people.
'I know that something as small as helping a tourist with directions, or helping a couple resolve an issue, would put a smile on someone's face.'
NYPD officials and his fellow officers at the 32nd Precinct vowed to never forget the rookie officer after he was shot and killed, and his partner critically injured, when a convicted felon out on parole shot them in Harlem on Friday.
'Tonight, we mourn the loss of a hero officer - a son, husband, and friend,' the NYPD said in a statement.
'Only 22 years old, Police Officer Jason Rivera was murdered in the line of duty. We vow to #NeverForget Jason as his fellow Finest vow to honor his tremendous legacy of service & the ultimate sacrifice.'
Adams told residents at a gun violence roundtable Saturday: 'It's hard to believe, but it´s only been three weeks, and it has been nonstop since then.'
'But I want you to know in a very clear way that I am more energized. I´m not tired. I´m not stressed out.'
Anti-domestic violence advocate Stephanie McGraw, who knew Rivera through her work with the precinct, said he was energetic and enthusiastic.
'He was so eager to make a difference in this community,' said McGraw, founder of We All Really Matter.
Mora is similarly devoted to the community, she said.
A procession carried the body of officer River by W135th Street and Lenox Avenue
The NYPD said, 'We vow to #NeverForget Jason as his fellow Finest vow to honor his tremendous legacy of service & the ultimate sacrifice'
A memorial lied outside the NYPD's 32nd Precinct to honor slain officer Jason Rivera, 22
Members of the community came out on Saturday to show their support for Rivera and the NYPD's 32nd Precinct
The demonstrators gathered to pray for Officer Wilbert Mora's recovery
The groups leading the vigil said they knew officers Rivera and Mora as devoted members of the community
Police said the gun used in Friday night's shooting, a .45-caliber Glock with a high-capacity magazine capable of holding up to 40 extra rounds, had been stolen in Baltimore in 2017.
Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul both said federal authorities need to do more to round up stolen guns like the one used in the Harlem shooting.
Hochul, at an appearance in Buffalo on Saturday, called it a 'scourge of illegal guns on our streets.'
Authorities said the three officers went to the apartment after a call came in from a woman needing help with McNeil, her son. Officers spoke with the woman and another son, but there was no mention of a weapon.
Eric Adams, mayor of New York City, is seen on Friday night addressing the press and crowds of police officers at Harlem hospital
McNeil was allegedly arguing with his mother on Friday night when she made a call to police
Crime is up 35 percent since Eric Adams took over as mayor of New York City
Overall crime is up 35 percent in the Big Apple
Rivera and Mora walked from the front of the apartment down a hallway, and McNeil swung open a bedroom door and opened fire, Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
As McNeil tried to flee, a third officer who had stayed with McNeil´s mother in the front of the apartment shot at McNeil and wounded him in the head and arm, Essig said.
'This was just not an attack on these brave officers,' Adams said Friday night. 'This was an attack on the city of New York.'
Mora has been with the NYPD for four years.
McNeil had previously been arrested in New York in 2003 on felony narcotic charges, and was out on probation.
He also had four other arrests in two different states.
In 1998, he was arrested in South Carolina for the unlawful possession of a weapon.
In Pennsylvania, where his registered address was, in Allentown, he was arrested in 2002 for assaulting a police officer.
He was also arrested twice in Pennsylvania in 2003 - once on a felony narcotics charge, and once on a misdemeanor narcotics charge.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, the largest municipal police union in the world representing 50,000 active and retired officers, excoriated the city's leaders for not doing enough.
Lynch has been highly critical of the new Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, who announced on taking office at the beginning of the month that he would not prosecute certain crimes.
Lynch said on January 4 that he had 'serious concerns about the message these types of policies send to both police officers and criminals on the street.'
On Friday night, he was furious, and pointed the finger firmly at Bragg and his policies.
'Our hearts are broken, we're in shock, our knees are buckling,' he said.
'And we're angry, because we've been here before.
'We're angry, because we saw it coming.
'We're angry, because we said it would happen - and it happened again.'