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Getaway driver in NYPD Officer Eddie Byrne’s 1988 murder granted parole, draws outrage

Jul. 28, 2023 By Bill Parry

Queens lawmakers, police union leaders, and a former NYPD detective who is campaigning to unseat disgraced Congressman George Santos are all expressing outrage after Scott Cobb, the getaway driver in the 1988 assassination of rookie cop Eddie Byrne, was granted parole on July 26. Cobb, 60, has served 34 years of his sentence and is scheduled to be released from the Clinton Correctional Center in upstate Dannemora on Aug. 8.

“At a time when criminals feel it’s open season on the NYPD, this tone-deaf decision by the parole board sends the wrong message to violent offenders,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola said. “Scott Cobb took part in the planned, pre-meditated murder of a New York City police officer, and as a result, he should never step foot outside of a prison again. The decision to allow him to rejoin society is not only a slap in the face to our system of law and order and to every member of law enforcement, but it’s an affront to the family of PO Byrne as well. The parole board’s decision will force PO Byrne’s loved ones to relive the pain and the trauma of their loss, and that is completely unacceptable.”

A replica of PO Byrne’s squad car.Photo by Bruce Adler

In the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 1988, Byrne was in uniform in a marked patrol car protecting a witness whose home had twice been firebombed to discourage him from testifying against drug kingpin Howard “Pappy” Mason. Cobb was convicted, along with three other assassins — David McClary, Todd Scott and Phillip Copeland — who acted in concert to carry out Mason’s orders to kill a police officer and send “a message to the cops” that his imprisonment would bring retaliation on the streets of southeast Queens.

Cobb was found guilty of being the squad’s wheelman, driving the hitman to the scene at the corner of Inwood Street and 107th Avenue where they rolled up on the 22-year-old rookie out of the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica. McClary shot Byrne five times in the head from point-blank range as the other assassins stood around his cruiser.

“Cobb, in a videotaped confession that was played at trial, provided graphic details of the killing, told how the participants had bragged about it afterward, and indicated that the killing had been ordered from jail by the drug dealer Howard Mason, the leader of their gang,” Councilman James Gennaro said. “Cobb’s parole sends a chilling message to the police officers who continue to serve with honor and distinction, as well as the community at large. I whole-heartedly stand with the PBA in denouncing the ‘insane’ Parole Board’s decision to allow this cop-killer back on our streets.”

Gennaro was referring to a statement from Patrick Hendry, the new president of the Police Benevolent Association. 

“All cop-killers are infuriating, but this one is especially outrageous considering the shockwaves this crime sent through this precinct, the NYPD, the city and nation,” Hendry said. “When Eddie Byrne was assassinated, it galvanized cops and the community to work together to take our streets back from these violent drug gangs.”

Hendry, 51, grew up in Queens Village and is assigned to Byrne’s 103rd Precinct where he passes a plaque with the fallen rookie’s image and story every day as he begins his tour.

The memorial for the fallen cop remains at the 103rd Precinct where PBA president Patrick Hendry passes each day at the start of his tour.NYPD

“That was Eddie Byrne’s legacy, and the insane Parole Board is tearing it to shreds,” Hendry said. “New York City police officers are absolutely sickened by this parole decision, and New Yorkers who care about safe streets should be, too. We need you to speak up and demand that our elected leaders in Albany fix the broken parole system so that none of the other Byrne assassins go free.”

Hendry, who replaced longtime PBA president Pat Lynch of Bayside just weeks ago, said Mason continues to serve a federal life sentence without the possibility of parole. Copeland, McClary and Scott remain behind bars, but the three are scheduled to appear before the board in the near future. According to figures compiled by the PBA, the NYS Parole Board has released 36 cop-killers since 2017, 32 of whom killed NYPD officers.

“It is imperative that Gov. Kathy Hochul suspend all activity and decision-making being done by the Parole Board as it stands,” Sergeants Benevolent Association President Vincent Vallelong said. “The decision to release this cop-killer is egregious for more than the obvious reasons. PO Byrne was assigned to the 103 Precinct which was awash in violence and bloodshed during the height of the crack epidemic. PO Byrne, as well as the witness, who was an immigrant from Guyana, represent the finest qualities of our great city. The actions of the parole board are despicable and an insult to the legacy of PO Byrne and the brave witness who came forth to make his adopted city a better place.”

Rookie PO Eddie Byrne was just 22 years old when he was shot at point-blank range by killers sent by a drug kingpin to send a message to the NYPD during the height of the crack epidemic.NYPD

Each year the NYPD marks the anniversary of Byrne’s murder with a midnight vigil at the same street corner where he was killed.

“Officer Eddie Byrne’s assassination was an attack on every community in our city,” NYPD Detectives’ Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said. “The parole of cop-killer Scott Cobb is yet another ludicrous, dangerous decision by New York’s parole board that cares more about cop killers than the heroes who were murdered.”

Former NYPD detective Michael Sapraicone, who like Hendry grew up in Queens Village, announced on July 24 that he would challenge Santos in next year’s Republican primary. He said the parole board should be ashamed for allowing Cobb to go free next month.

“I remember that fateful night in 1988 clearly. The tragedy struck the nation — and brought us cops together with the community to make our neighborhoods safer. That will always remain Eddie’s legacy,” Sapraicone said. “The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program has helped police departments and communities with critical federal funding to keep people safe. These are the resources that elected leaders must stand behind — not the release of those who murder our heroes in blue. I will make this a top priority on Capitol Hill.”

Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), a grassroots advocacy campaign created and led by formerly incarcerated people, believes the parole board acted properly.

“The purpose of parole is to evaluate people for release based on who they are today, not to extend sentences in perpetuity,” RAPP Director Jose Saldana said. “Recent decisions the Parole Board has made based on this principle are the right ones – and bring us one step closer to justice. There is no doubt that many committed very serious crimes. We believe that all lives are precious and that the life of a teacher, a nurse, or a food delivery worker is no less valuable than the life of a police officer. A person who has taken any such life has caused tremendous harm that cannot be minimized. Yet we also value redemption & human transformation. People can and do rehabilitate themselves and others around them every day. That is why we oppose permanent punishment.”

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