NEW YORK — A young NYPD officer was fighting for his life Saturday after he was shot and his partner killed in a Harlem apartment ambush set off by a bizarre family feud between a mother and her gun-toting, ex-con son over his vegan diet, police sources said.
Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, survived the bullets fired by the gunman who stepped over the cop’s dying partner Friday evening to squeeze off another shot inside a narrow hallway in the first-floor apartment, police sources said.
Lashawn McNeil emerged from his bedroom blasting with a Glock .45 handgun capable of holding 40 rounds, police said, killing 22-year-old Officer Jason Rivera with his first shots.
“Why’d you do that?” his mother screamed at McNeil, who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and who carried a weapon stolen five years ago in Baltimore, police sources told the Daily News. The gunman, shot and wounded by responding Officer Sumit Sulan, had prior arrests in three states — including a Pennsylvania assault on a police officer, authorities said.
The mother did not tell the arriving officers that her son was armed, according to a source.
Flags across the five New York City boroughs flew at half-staff Saturday to honor Rivera, a son of Dominican immigrants who once wrote that he joined the NYPD to make a difference in “this chaotic city.” He was killed after just 14 months on the job, and he leaves behind his wife.
The prognosis for Mora, whose parents were at his bedside Saturday, was “literally 50-50 right now,” said a colleague of the wounded officer. “He can go either way.”
Fellow officers rushed into the W. 135th St. apartment to frantically pull the wounded Mora and Rivera out of the hallway and into a waiting ambulance.
A source said the call to the Harlem apartment appeared to be a routine run until things went sideways once the officers arrived. The expectation, he explained, was the situation could be resolved without an arrest after a chat with McNeil.
“Not expecting it was going to be a doomsday scenario,” the source said. “Just based on the perp’s actions (beforehand), he wasn’t going to get collared. So why did he go down in a blaze of glory?”
Mayor Eric Adams, an ex-NYPD captain, returned to the hospital Saturday after visiting the 32nd Precinct where the two officers worked. Mourning bunting was hung outside the stationhouse in honor of the slain Rivera, one of five NYPD officers shot so far in 2022.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who gave last rites to Mora at Harlem Hospital in the hours after the Friday evening shooting, returned a day later to deliver a blessing to the wounded cop, according to an archdiocese spokesman. He also spoke with Mora’s mother and cousin and talked to Rivera’s brother on the phone Saturday morning.
McNeil was helping his mother recover from heart surgery for a stent when the fight over food erupted, with the mom finally calling police to the home, according to a source. The mother and son clashed frequently after his arrival, leading to her decision to dial 911.
“We’ve been having problems,” the mother told police arriving at the apartment before summoning her son to enter the living room — but he refused to leave his bedroom, the police source said. When the two young cops headed down the hallway to speak with him, McNeil came out with gun in hand and opened fire.
Rivera was hit first, with his body-worn camera capturing McNeil stepping over the fallen officer to fire at Mora, police sources said. One fellow officer recalled Mora as a “a teddy bear of a guy” held in high regard by his colleagues.
Mora’s family gathered in their apartment while awaiting news on the four-year veteran officer, but declined to comment.
“We have no comment, please respect our privacy,” read a note on their door. “Thank you for your kind thoughts.”
Officer Sulan, who wounded the gunman, “was calm, cool, collected” after the shootout, a police source said. “He told them, ‘I shot the perp.’”
McNeil’s rap sheet included a New York City felony conviction for drugs in 2003, along with a South Carolina gun possession charge in 1998 and an arrest four years later for assaulting a Pennsylvania police officer. He also had a pair of Pennsylvania drug arrests in 2002 and 2003.
His Facebook page indicated he attended Far Rockaway High School, and his social media posts included anti-police and anti-government rhetoric, according to police sources. He also posted a video showing a pair of rappers pointing guns at a cop’s head.
PBA President Patrick Lynch called for New Yorkers to honor the officer who gave his life on the job and offer their support for the one still hospitalized.
“We respectfully ask you once again, please join us to mourn Officer Jason Rivera as if he was your own flesh and blood,” said Lynch. “And please pray hard for our injured brother, because he is your brother too.”
About $25,000 has already been raised to help the Rivera family, with the NY Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund delivering the funds to the officer’s spouse. The fund provides financial assistance to families of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty.
The double-shooting came just one day after an NYPD detective was shot in the leg during a Staten Island drug raid, and three days after an officer took a bullet while trying to arrest a gang member.
The first shooting of the month came on New Year’s Day, when an officer napping between shifts outside the 25th Precinct stationhouse took a random bullet to the head.