New York, NY – Officials announced Monday afternoon that the New York Police Department (NYPD) officer fatally shot in the line of the duty on Sunday morning was killed by friendly fire.
NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill faced reporters from police headquarters and explained what investigators believed happened when NYPD Officer Brian Mulkeen was shot.
“Our investigation so far has found that Officer Mulkeen retained his firearm during the entire violent struggle he had with the suspect,” Commissioner O’Neill said. “Brian was the one who fired his own weapon and he fired five rounds at the suspect. As we told you on Sunday, the suspect’s loaded gun was not fired during this incident.”
“Investigation has also found that Officer Mulkeen’s partners fired 10 rounds, and two of those rounds struck Officer Mulkeen,” the commissioner continued.
“This is a tragic case of friendly fire but make no mistake, we lost the life of a courageous public servant due solely to a violent criminal who put the lives of the police, and all of the people we serve, in jeopardy,” he said.
Police said the 27-year-old armed suspect was on probation for a narcotics-related arrest and had a criminal history that included a burglary conviction.
Officer Mulkeen, a seven-year veteran of the department, was killed while on patrol with the Bronx Borough Anti-Crime Unit out of the 47th Precinct at about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 29, according to NYPD Force Investigation Division Deputy Chief Kevin Maloney.
Chief Maloney said that Officer Mulkeen and his partners tried to stop two men near the Edenwald Houses apartment project and one of the men fled on foot.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan told reporters at a press conference early on Sunday morning that “a violent struggle on the ground began” after Officer Mulkeen caught up with the suspect and took him to the ground.
Chief Monahan said that Officer Mulkeen’s bodycam footage captured the young officer yelling “he’s reaching for it, he’s reaching for it!” before gunfire erupted, The Washington Post reported.
“During the struggle, the officers discharged a total of 15 rounds and the suspect and one officer was struck by those discharged rounds,” Chief Maloney explained on Monday.
Commissioner O’Neill spoke about Officer Mulkeen’s bravery during the incident that ended his life.
“Brian was the one that initiated the chase – I saw some of the bodyworn camera footage and I gotta tell ya, there’s 36,000 cops in this police department and each one of them incredible human beings. But I’m not sure if everybody would have done that. He displayed incredible, incredible courage,” the commissioners told reporters.
He said the investigation was ongoing and that investigators were reviewing bodycam video from five out of six bodycams present at the incident.
Commissioner O’Neill said Officer Mulkeen never had a chance to activate his own bodycam before he was killed.
“It was a violent struggle and from start to finish, from first round to last round, was 10 seconds. Just think about that. Think about how quick that is,” he said.
NYPD initially reported on Sunday that Officer Mulkeen had been shot three times, but Commissioner O’Neill said it turned out the officer had been shot twice and one of the wounds had gone all the way through, leaving two holes.
Chief Monahan told reporters initially that it was unclear how Officer Mulkeen had been killed.
Commissioner O’Neill’s announcement the next day that the young officer was killed by friendly fire was a stunning admission in light of the fact that Officer Mulkeen is the second NYPD officer killed by friendly fire in the line of duty so far this year.
NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen was fatally shot in the line of duty by other officers on Feb. 12 while responding to an armed robbery in a T-Mobile store.
The suspect who caused the friendly-fire incident later claimed that the robbery had just been a prank that he was filming for YouTube.
Commissioner O’Neill said the bodycam video from the incident that led to Officer Mulkeen’s line-of-duty death would eventually be released to the public.
The commissioner said that the officer was in plainclothes when the incident occurred but that he was equipped with a bullet-proof vest.
He refused to release the names of Officer Mulkeen’s partners and told reporters he would not discuss details about who had fired the fatal bullets until the investigation was completed.