Piagentini and Jones killed in ambush
On May 21, 1971, two New York City Police Officers were executed in Harlem. The partners, Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones were victims of the anti-police sentiment that grew in the late 1960’s and was violently expressed by a black-nationalist militant movement that gained popularity after the death of Martin Luther King.
Piagentini and Jones were working a 4×12 on patrol in the 32nd Precinct when they received a call for a dispute in the Colonial Park Housing project (Colonial Park Houses were re-named the Ralph Rangel Houses in 1975). The pair wrapped up the call and trudged back up to their RMP parked on Coogan’s Bluff.
They would never make it back to their car. As they walked up the steep steps, shots rang out. Patrolman Jones was shot in the back of the head at point black range and died instantly. Patrolman Piagentini was shot several times and fell to the ground. The perps removed his service revolver and shot him with it as he pled for his life. Piagentini was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival with 13 gunshot wounds.
The perps fled, but there were several witnesses. One witness was warned by the group of men not to talk, but he came forward to give detectives his account of what he observed. Detectives soon had ID’s on five homicide perps. They were Francisco Torres, Gabriel Torres, Herman Bell, Albert Washington, and Anthony Bottom. They were members of the Black Liberation Army, a radical group that executed over a dozen police officers around the country.
In August of that year Anthony Bottom and Robert Johnson were arrested in San Francisco after trying to kill another cop. They had Patrolman Piagentini’s gun in their car. A witness later testified that Herman Bell had buried Patrolman Jones’ revolver in a field in Mississippi.
Eventually all five were captured and returned to New York for trial. The first trial resulted in a hung jury. The cases against the Torres brothers were dropped, but a new trial was declared for Bell, Washington, and Bottom. All three were found guilty and sentenced to 25 to life in prison.
The release of these perps became a bit of a cause celeb for the social justice warriors. Herman Bell was granted parole in 2018 and Anthony Bottom was paroled in 2020. Washington died in prison.
The NYPD managed to get this missive past the censors in the DeBlasio Administration. It goes into detail about the cold-blooded actions of Herman Bell and is worth reading.
by Christopher Flanagan