‘How are they even on the force?’: NYPD cops allowed to keep jobs after not getting out of car before Brooklyn woman’s murder

February 8, 2021
New York Daily News

Two NYPD cops who failed to get out of their patrol car while responding to a domestic violence incident involving a Brooklyn woman who was then murdered by her husband have been allowed to keep their jobs, the Daily News has learned.

Officers Wing Hong Lau and Wael Jaber drove to the home of victim Tonie Wells but never left their car the morning of Dec. 22, 2017, as temperatures hovered in the low 20s.

Wells, 22, had called 911 from her Crown Heights home saying her husband, Barry Wells, was acting odd. A neighbor called about a half hour later saying Tonie Wells was screaming, “He’s going to kill me.”

Lau and Jaber drove to the home after the second call but never got out to investigate.

Tonie Wells was found strangled at the bottom of a set of stairs about an hour later after another neighbor heard Wells’ infant screaming and called 911.

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Six days after the incident, Lau, 49, and Jaber, 45, were suspended by the NYPD for 30 days without pay.

They were later each found guilty by the department of failure to take police action and failure to properly investigate while responding to a call.

But instead of losing their jobs for the fatal error, Lau and Jaber were placed on dismissal probation — meaning they had to keep their nose clean for a year or risk termination for any new misconduct.

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The relative lack of consequences outraged Wells’ family.

“It makes my blood pressure go up,” the victim’s mother, Elizabeth Rivera, 47, told the Daily News on Monday. “It’s an outrage. We can only just pray.”

“How are they even on the force?” she added. “They get away with everything.”

Neither cop was docked vacation days — a relative rarity in police misconduct outcomes.

The NYPD commissioner has final say over how cops found guilty of work violations by the department are punished.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD cop, said the disciplinary outcome in this case was not sufficient to send the right message.

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“Anytime a failure to do your job causes the loss of an innocent life, that should be automatic termination,” said Adams, who is running for mayor.

“You are there to protect life. In this case, they are still on patrol when they already showed signs they didn’t want to do the job. What does that say to the public?”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea signed off on the penalty in July, but the decision was not publicly disclosed. Adams criticized how long it took the NYPD to handle the case.

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“It takes two years and seven months when you have all the evidence in front of you?” Adams said. “These cases should be handled in a 60-day period so we can decide if [the officers] are suitable to continue to do the job.”

Jaber also lost 15 vacation days in an unrelated 2018 case for being discourteous, refusing to identify himself and making misleading statements to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, records show.

“Both officers should have been fired,” said Joo Hyun-Kang of Communities United for Police Reform, an activist group. “Not firing them for this kind of egregious action is a clear signal that this misconduct is acceptable.”

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Despite repeal of Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law, the NYPD has continued to not release disciplinary outcomes for cops in hot water. The 50-a law, axed in June during mass civil unrest over police brutality against African-Americans, was long used by police departments in New York to shield disciplinary records.