They Took Different Paths. They Died Together in the Bronx.

The lives of two young men — one an eager police officer, the other a troubled father with a gun — collided after midnight. Each has a story.

Comments: 93

  1. Yup, a gun toting, gang member who deals in heroin is indeed “troubled”.

  2. Why does this article say “he was carrying a gun, the police say,” when his girlfriend confirmed the gun was his. Why not just say he was carrying a gun? Also, if you are going to publish someone’s opinion that he could have run from police with a loaded gun and “he didn’t have to die,” why not seek out a contrary opinion that if people with loaded guns are allowed to run from the police without being stopped, the city will end up less safe?

  3. @A. Very good points. While I'm not sure based on just this one article that the writers, or the editor, have biases for/against police, guns, ex-cons, etc., my initial opinion is there were attempts to slant. Perhaps just to get some blood boiling. NYT should be better than that.

  4. @A. Did the officer know Williams had a loaded gun. If so, how. Or was the officer just harassing him on a hunch?

  5. @A. Yes I’d like to hear from the Edenwald community where there had recently been a massive shoot-out. What’s their take on police tactics? Would they prefer ‘community policing’?

  6. This was a good read, sad but good.

  7. No education, early and often kids, gang affiliation, criminal activity, hit or miss employment, money problems, drugs, and illegal guns. Yeah, big surprise this ended badly.

  8. His parents were both doctors.

  9. @AT, What this man’s early gang affiliations had to do with his final, lethal kerfuffle is not entirely clear here. But it firmly puts in mind a stereotype. It also might be fair to point out that a poorly trained, plain clothed posses of gun crazy cops may have had something to do with this terrible tragedy. We are given cut-out good guys and bad guys in this story. Ironic but hardly unusual in this day and age that the ‘good’ guys turn out to be the assassins...

  10. @Jonbrady This gang of crazy cops is responsible for removing firearms from the street so people who live in places like the Edenwald Houses (NYCHA) where they are already subjected to the effects of poverty may be safer. If that makes them crazy, I want to be them. The community needs to be protected from criminals.

  11. Asking plain clothes police to be responsible for getting handguns off the street is a recipe for disaster on so many levels- civil liberties will be violated, mistrust between the public and police will rise and the potential for what occurred here. If you believe guns should be off the streets then enact state and federal laws. Come up with a sensible plan. This strategy really seems poorly thought out and now two people are dead.

  12. @Noah There are over 300 million guns in this country. After you enact those “state and federal laws laws” how are you going to enforce them unless you arrest people who are illegally carrying / owning guns?

  13. @John fine, do it with uniformed officers. Why the need for plainclothes? Especially in sketchy neighborhoods, how would anyone know it's a cop vs. a random person trying to rob them?

  14. @Noah We have an entire political party propped up by money from a "non-profit" financed in large part by gun manufacturers that it is determined to prevent federal gun control. This same party is in control in states where people buy guns and bring them to New York City.

  15. There is just nothing good to say about this case. Sometimes life is what you make of it, and if you choose a path which is fraught will peril, expect perilous times. No good comes from being imperious and foolish, for both gentlemen.

  16. For both gentlemen? One made the hard decision to give up a job in finance and join the NYPD. The other decided to sell drugs, carry a weapon despite being on parole.

  17. @Monroe MD That's why this is such a complicated story. What you say is true. But it is also true that, from what we know, it seems that one man chose to physically engage and then repeatedly shot the other, and the other apparently did not. At the end of the day, neither mand was killed by joining the NYPD or selling drugs and carrying a gun while on parole. It's the bullet what kills you.

  18. She lied about her boyfriend hitting her to get him out of their home. He had heroin and a gun in home with a toddler. He ran away from police when he was going to be questioned. But we are blaming the police? He went to North Rockland High School. A school that provides so many opportunities for a person to succeed. A community that is quite tight knit. He chose to join a gang. He chose not to further his education and live this life. Sorry I understand he was someone’s son, father, boyfriend. But he made horrible choices and caused his own death and the death of a man looking to make city streets safer.

  19. Tragic, yes; but can there be any sort of parallelism between the active roles each of these two individuals played in what transpired? Beyond this simplistic attempt at comparison, there is a more serious issue that is ignored constantly; we have a violence problem in the US (not just a gun problem), which is cultural. This fundamental flaw in our national character is not a mere policy problem. We need a moral leaders... even in the presidency.

  20. There are many issues this story raises that need to be addressed but I”ll just mention one that is often overlooked: the tools we provide our police with to apprehend wrongdoers. Guns have their origin in the 14th century, a time when ships were made of wood and oxen pulled plows. We’ve since progressed far beyond those obsolete technologies yet still seem curiously complacent when it comes to the inherent chaos of lead projectiles flying through the air. Various methods for safely incapacitating people already exist in theory — we just need the will to develop them.

  21. @Robert Schwartz In theory. If I had a buck for every time something in theory failed, I would be on a nice beach somewhere.

  22. @Jake Sad but true. However thanks to Columbus proving a theory you now have a beautiful Caribbean beach to laze on, musing about how to spend that fortune.

  23. Mr Williams led a life of crime (even on parole when the stakes are even higher), undoubtedly victimizing many others (none of whom got a word in this piece). Even if we embrace Williams-as-the-victim narrative and second-guess police tactics, gotta say, what goes around comes around.

  24. @Andy Deckman What goes around comes around. So did Mr. Williams kill somebody?

  25. The only one who can answer that is six feet under. He certainly had the means (an illegal pistol), the plausible motive (heroin trade, burglaries) and history (recidivist ex con, domestic violence). Reap what you sow.

  26. Running this as a parallel biography is insulting to the life and memory of Officer Mulkeen who died in the line of duty. Williams' life and death were sad, but there seems to be a false equivalency of "two men both caught in a bad system" that just isn't true. One man deserved our admiration and the other clearly does not.

  27. @Rex Nemorensis They were both human beings. I was a public defender for seven years. Some officers deserve admiration and some definitely don’t.

  28. @Rex Nemorensis Nothing in the article says or implies "two men both caught in a bad system." The only parallel made is that they both ended up dying in the Bronx by gun violence. The whole point of comparing them is precisely that they arrived to the same end by such different paths in life... When you say "One man deserved our admiration and the other clearly does not" is an opinion you formed, I assume, from what you read in the article. That is what good journalism is supposed to do: give readers the stories, for them to make their opinion.

  29. @nickdastardly Clearly, Office Mulkeen deserves admiration. Admiration for the way he performed his duty, and admiration for the way he died performing his duty. Your comment is true but not specific to the incident.

  30. I wrote earlier in the day addressing the issue if Mr. Williams's being "the father of two." In essence, what I said was that, committed to neither of his girlfriends, he fathered two children. He certainly was not, from the get-go, the "father" that children deserve to have.

  31. Another cop killed by friendly fire——-tragic. How difficult these situations can be , even for trained police officers. What can we expect when the next school shooting occurs if Florida where teachers are now being armed with guns? More and probably worse tragedy. We do not need more “good guys with guns “ to stop gun violence. We need fewer guns in society!

  32. @Michael Richter Ironically, working toward fewer guns in society - here specifically on the street - is what led to the officer's death.

  33. "..and when plainclothes officers tried to question him and another man outside the Edenwald Houses at 12:30 a.m., he ran. Officer Mulkeen chased Mr. Williams.." The suspect runs and the cop chases.. This should be a discretionary call on behalf of the police officer- When and When not to give chase.. This should be a trained, decision making tactic at the police academy. Too many times cops egos get in the way and fog their judgement. Poor decisions are made and people die.

  34. @Aaron Officer Mulkeen's decision to chase Mr. William was not a poor choice. It has not been disclosed whether Officer Mulkeen or his partners observed a gun. Given the context of 30 gunshots being exchanged the previous day it was correct for Officer Mulkeen to exit his patrol car and engage Mr. Williams and his acquaintance in conversation to see if they may be able to develop information on the people involved in the previous shootings. Mr. Williams's running gives the officer reasonable suspicion to make a stop and question Mr. Williams. At the point in the chase where Officer Mulkken observed Mr. Williams reaching for his firearm, he took action a reasonable police officer under the circumstances should take. The fact they both died is tragic. Mr. Williams's decision to carry a firearm caused his death. He could have gone back to prison. Then they'd both still be alive. He chose to run and fight. This incident is a story of choices: Officer Mulkeen's decision to become a police officer to help people and Mr. Williams's choice to engage in criminal conduct. Additionally, the people who live in the Edewald Houses have the right to live in a safe environment free from gun violence from people like Mr. Williams. Police Officer Mulkeen's life choice was to create a safe environment for these people. He died living his sworn duty to protect people from harm. Mr. Williams died from his bad choices.

  35. @Bill yeah. I feel like an important detail was missed here. No conversation or accusation was had. Want to be pulled over real quick? Turn off a road the second a police officer comes behind you. It’s suspicious. I used to walk at night in Denver to avoid hot days and police regularly got out of their cars to ask questions. Granted, I’m both white and a woman, but that certainly does not imply night safety... from any man in any walk of life. You have to give people, especially the police, the chance to do the wrong thing. Any debate about what would have happened then is moot here. You run the second you see a cop, whatever your race or sex, and you’re getting chased. Mr. Williams had reason to run.

  36. I am shocked at the anti-NYPD sentiment in these comments and by the Times’ decision to create some sort of equivalency from this situation. Of course this was a tragedy, and 2 young lives were lost needlessly. But the “path” freely taken by Mr. Williams and the choices he made created this sad situation. Despite being on parole, Mr. Williams chose to carry a loaded gun and chose to run from a police officer. Officer Mulkeen was doing the job he is paid to do, making NYC safer by removing guns from the streets.

  37. @Mary: "But the “path” freely taken by Mr. Williams and the choices he made created this sad situation." How so, Williams tackled himself? There's no evidence that Williams pulled the trigger on Mulkeen's gun. "Despite being on parole, Mr. Williams chose to carry a loaded gun and chose to run from a police officer." The police say it was Williams' gun. And say it were, that's illegal, but running away is likely legal. Especially since Mulkeen didn't know that Williams had the purported gun. "Officer Mulkeen was doing the job he is paid to do, making NYC safer by removing guns from the streets." That's debatable, he could have waited for back up. He could have chosen to not run after Williams, he could have chosen to not tackle Williams.

  38. @Yaj Your poor excuses for this criminal shows a total lack of respect and sympathy for New York City's Finest.

  39. One left a comfortable high paying job to serve and protect and the other left a wife and two kids for a life of crime. One deserves our respect and sorrow, the other deserves nothing.

  40. Black man walking--stopped by police, afraid, runs, shot and killed by police. White police officer--suspicious, then fearful for his life, chases, starts firing, shot and killed by police. Systemic tragedy--time to come together to change these racist and violent systems.

  41. @alcatraz Afraid to go back to jail because he was on parole & had an illegal gun on him.

  42. @alcatraz It's normal to be fearful for your life when someone who is not legally allowed to carry a gun is carrying one and reaching for it. Mr. Williams' father was a psychiatrist, so he probably came from a family with more money than most white people I know. He surely had better options in life than gang member and drug dealer.

  43. @alcatraz What is racist about this? A black man on parole with a gun is stopped by a police officer. He should not have been stopped?

  44. The two men did meet and die at the same time, in the same place, but that is where the comparison between these two men ends, in my humble opinion. Each one of them made very different free choices in their lives. Without the choices made by one of them, neither would have died.

  45. Friendly fire? Life ends badly for two people who are polar opposites. Gun crime will only stop when bullets are no longer made. The 2nd amendment allows for the right to bear arms, so why do the police decide who is allowed to and who isn't allowed to carry guns, loaded or not? Either amend the 2nd amendment or allow everyone the right to carry weapons.

  46. @BSH Even convicted criminals on parole carrying an unlicensed weapon?

  47. "The .32-caliber revolver found near Mr. Williams, which his girlfriend confirmed was his, had never been fired. " "A police official who has seen the body-camera footage of the shooting said the officers appeared to be firing toward what looked like a dark heap on the ground. Officers fired a total of 10 rounds. Two struck Officer Mulkeen, one in the head and one in the torso. Mr. Williams was struck seven times, his girlfriend said. She said relatives told her that Mr. Williams also had a large gash under his eye and bruising." "At Officer Mulkeen’s funeral, the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said, “One person is responsible for Brian’s death, and that’s the person carrying a loaded and illegal gun that decided to run from the police.” " In my opinion based on the facts cited in this article, James P. O'Neill is blaming the wrong person for the death of Officer Mulkeen. NYPD officers killed Officer Mulkeen and should be sued for wrongful death. Small wonder the NYPD isn't trusted.

  48. There is only one human story here. Conflating the two in any way is disgraceful.

  49. @Grunt , are you saying White lives Don't Matter?

  50. Did anyone notice that in the photo tribute held by his GF that his nickname or street name was "Larceny". That says all that needs to be said about what he did with his life.

  51. Another double-tragedy. Everyone loses, again. We fallible humans just can't help ourselves: Mr. Williams, owned by hard narcotics, carried a gun for protection; and in his circle, that was probably not paranoia. It was illegal and stupid though to hang with that crowd. Mr. Mulkeen, dressed in civvies, did his job, but his job in this case, unfortunately, involved drawing his service revolver, and settling the issue on the spot. The other officers, confused in the dark, see a dark lump of fighting men, and hearing shooting, fired many rounds at the threat. Shoot first, ask questions later. What could go wrong? It was a setup, bound to fail. Surely, some smart police supervisor can come up with better methods of operation. If not, this tragedy will soon repeat itself.

  52. This is pretty clear - one left a high paying job to serve his fellow life travellers and his community - the other was a life-long criminal. Officer Mulkeen has been lionized and will be missed - Mr. Williams is simply gone.

  53. “When it was time to be on the street to be the police, he was. When it was time to be compassionate and have a heart, he did,” said the commanding officer. The need to problematize this contrast could not be more apparent! Kudos to the NYT for using storytelling to illustrate the tragedies that occur around us daily because people, whether officer or civilian, believe it necessary to park their hearts and compassion whenever they're going to be "on the streets." Until we stop reducing policing to its most Manichean simplicity - lookin' at you, Commissioner O'Neill - then we'll never provide the resources needed to address the truly complex ways in which people are left to make disastrous decisions. We are, none of us, without fault. Please reacquaint yourself with your empathy.

  54. Release the video. All of it. "The police commissioner said on Tuesday that some of the video would be released soon, but not all of it because it is part of an investigation by the Bronx district attorney’s office." That's not a reason. Release all of it. The police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said, “One person is responsible for Brian’s death, and that’s the person carrying a loaded and illegal gun that decided to run from the police.” Sounds like a man who doesn't want to invest in better training courses to avoid friendly fire.

  55. Why we should trust the police's account of this incident when they have shown time and time again to have lied to protect themselves, I don't know. The fact of the matter is, the police stopped a man on the street in the middle of the night without probable cause, then ran after him and murdered him. He did not take out his gun, or fire his gun, if it even was his gun and not a plant. Then, don't forget the reason a police officer is dead is because ANOTHER COP shot him, because the NYPD is incapable of training their officers to exercise restraint.

  56. @Andrew The fact of the matter is, the police stopped a man who came from an upper-class family who chose a life of gang violence, narcotics, and domestic abuse. The last thing African-American communities need are violent gangsters with guns terrorizing the populace. A tragedy that Officer Mulkeen had to die because of Williams's selfishness and violence.

  57. @Andrew Exactly, The Carolina police officer executed an unarmed, fleeing suspect [shot him in the back multiple times] and tried to cover it up-- Luckily somebody had it all on film.. I think that cop is serving time in prison.

  58. @Chris Smith No, I do believe the last thing African American communities need is frequently being shot by white police officers. Oh wait, they already have that.

  59. When you read about both men, you can feel sympathy for both. But in the end, it is the same old story of a man running from the law that caused all this hurt.

  60. @Jacob Paniagua People run from the police so often without being killed that it’s rather silly to suggest that running invariably leads to being killed by the police. So many other factors determine the outcome and, unfortunately, race features prominently among them.

  61. A young black man exercising his second amendment right to bear arms was gunned downed by a white officer in plain clothing as he attempted to flee to protect his rights and be safe. Poorly trained and trigger happy police killed the white officer and attempted to lay blame on the dead black man who never discharged his weapon. This is the real story the NY Times is neglecting to state clearly and forcefully. Both men are dead because a white cop decided to harass chase and then shoot at that man as if it was a video game.

  62. @Stefon Wow! Really? You lost me at "A young black man exercising his second amendment right to bear arms". Have you ever read the 2nd amendment? "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" It says nothing about criminals - black or white who possess an unlicensed hand gun.

  63. @Stefon A criminal on parole with an unlicensed gun???? That is a spectacular case of turning facts around !

  64. Police officers everywhere should be fighting tooth and nail against the NRA, our very own homegrown terrorist organization.

  65. Is this not the definition of trigger-happy?

  66. @Sam Song "Scared" might fit, too.

  67. The fact that you in any way equate these two men turns my stomach.

  68. @Jen More false equivalence; more pretext for Trumpers to shout: "Fake news!"

  69. What is the point of this reporting? To attempt to humanize a felon and a drug dealer who violated his probation and was walking around NYC with an illegal concealed firearm? If you make enough bad choices in life, sometimes the last one you make is reaching for your illegal weapon when stopped by the police.

  70. Sadly, there are a number of police officers who would shoot first and then point fingers at the circumstances, minimizing responsibilities for their actions. On another note, the term "friendly fire" always bothers me. It certainly isn't "friendly" to the individual hit by it. Call it for what it is: shot by his fellow officers.

  71. Better training for police officers could have saved this officer’s life.

  72. One man was a hardworking police officer who lost his life protecting the citizens of New York. The other man was a street level career criminal who was armed. There is no comparison between the two.

  73. It is a bit unclear from reading this if the police ever identified themselves as such, and if not, how was Mr. Williams to know who was chasing him and to follow orders from them? Also, what was the probable cause to start trying to question/chase/shoot him in the first place? I am a huge law-and-order type, but these are very important facts which appear to be missing from the article.

  74. I have so much sympathy for the officer, but not for the man who was the son of two educated people and decided to associate with a gang, commit two burglaries and then possess a gun while on parole.

  75. This story bothered me when it first broke. It's the quality-of-life squad activity (as depicted in Lush Life by Richard Price) of shaking people down for guns that seems to have potentially led to an officer's death. Troubling.

  76. You mean, the quality-of-life squad that's busy taking away people's guns? You must mean the guns that routinely kill our New York City kids caught in moronic cross fire because the gangs around here can't shoot straight. Yes, that counts as quality of life for me. The cops can't take away too many guns, as far as I'm concerned.

  77. I can't help but notice that many of the commenters are missing a large and problematic point. While it may be true that Mr. Williams's choices and behavior led to him being pursued by police, the fact remains that those officers were so poorly trained and emotionally ill-equipped for the circumstances that they killed their own brother officer when the suspect never fired a shot. This may be indisputable proof of the brokenness of, if not all all law enforcement, then certainly this law enforcement department.

  78. I really feel for the Officer Mulkeen's family. Bottom line, don't run from the police, cooperate. The police are at a heighten state, it's not an easy job, split-second decisions have to be made. Escalating and running will never help easy the situation. Tragic on all accounts.

  79. Police Officer Mulkeen had, according to the article, 270 arrests mainly for gun possession. Imagine the human suffering he prevented by making those arrests and taking those handguns off the street. That’s called making a real difference.

  80. Mr Williams: A grown man still in a gang. If you look hard enough for trouble, you will find it.

  81. "Officer Mulkeen fired five times at Mr. Williams before being shot by his fellow officers. Mr. Williams’s .32-caliber revolver was never fired." Okay, that's a reasonably new piece of information for the public. But the NY Times reporters need to explain what justified Mulkeen shooting his gun? Was it the struggle?

  82. That is a pretty disgusting to say at someone's funeral. Anyone's funeral. Disgraceful.

  83. A beautifully written story. I appreciate the deft handling of the background of two very different lives lost, both valuable in their own ways and to those who loved each of these men. What a shame and waste all around.

  84. So rather than talking about how jumpy, fearful cops have already killed two of their own this year, the NYPD is happy enough to push the narrative that it's all the fault of the guy who tried to run away. I'm guessing this won't be the last of these friendly fire killings.

  85. Some of these comments are revolting. To equate the lives of a brave officer with a low level street thug is outrageous. I hope such people don’t have the misfortune to confront a Williams-Type on a dark street one night.

  86. This article is precisely why I am cancelling my subscription. There is no parallel story here. Officer Mulkeen was performing his duties as a police office, Mr. Williams was running away because he knew he was breaking the law and in trouble. Yet somehow the NYT finds these people equivalent. More drivel than I am prepared to pay for. I'm sorry for loss to the family of Officer Mulkeen and Williams, but they are not equivalent.

  87. Just another reason why we need some sort of sensible gun regulations.

  88. @Stephen This was a felon on probation for whom owning (and carrying) a gun was illegal. The regulations were in place; he simply ignored them. I am not sure what gun regulation would have made this less likely to occur.

  89. @Bill My understanding is that there is a supply/demand argument that gun regulation will lead to fewer guns, generally, and drive up the price of illegal guns. This is already the case in tightly controlled markets (Australia, Japan), where an illegal gun costs upwards of $10K. Sure, they exist, but a small time crook on the street isn't going to have one. This logic also explains why gun companies oppose regulations as it will reduce their sales revenue.

  90. I can't help but wonder if officers have learned to shout things for their body cams that aren't true but would justify their own use of guns. Just routinely "He's going for a gun," just in case... We hear a lot of this and it makes me wonder... ...

  91. @ExitAisle I agree, and another of their favorites is to shout, “Stop resisting!” This occurs even when it’s clear that the person under arrest is offering absolutely no resistance.

  92. @ExitAisle Does it make you wonder what it must be like for a police officer when they say, "He's going for a gun," and it is true? How it must feel for the officer knowing he or she may be shot at that moment? It goes beyond doing a job.

  93. Another Liberal " journalist ". These two men had nothing in common. One swore to protect and serve the other "had everything to loose" by being a criminal and carrying an illegal gun. If he wanted to stay out of jail and be a good citizen he should of obeyed the laws.