WALLKILL, N.Y. – Convicted cop killer and Black Liberation Army member Herman Bell walked out of prison a free man Friday afternoon after more than 40 years behind bars — despite fierce protests from the NYPD’s largest union and the widow of one of his victims.
Bell, 70, left Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, New York, just after 5 p.m. in a state corrections van. His release was not visible to the media.
Sources told The New York Post he is headed to Brooklyn.
The ex-gang member was convicted of ruthlessly murdering two NYPD officers in a 1971 ambush in Harlem. He lured the officers to a housing project under the guise of a domestic violence call and then executed each one as he shot them from behind.
Officer Joseph Piagentini was shot dozens of times as he screamed and begged for his life. His partner, Officer Waverly Jones was shot four times.
Piagentini had been on the job for five years when he was murdered. He left behind a wife and two daughters. Jones had also been a New York cop for five years when he was executed. He left behind a wife and three children.
The Black Liberation Army was a violent, radical group that attempted to fight for independence from the United States government in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The BLA was responsible for the murders of more than 10 police officers around the country, reported ODMP in the officers obituaries. They were also responsible for violent attacks around the country that left many police officers wounded.
Bell refused to show regret or remorse during the first 30 or so years of his 25-to-life sentence. Moreover, he actually insisted he was innocent and nothing more than a “political prisoner,” even though witnesses and friends testified he openly bragged about the killing and the firearm used in the murders was found in his co-defendant’s possession.
Bell was originally eligible for parole in 2004. Nevertheless, he was consistently rejected for his lack of remorse.
Finally, in 2012, Bell admitted to the parole board he played a part in the murders, but now claims he’s a “peaceful” man.
So that is all it takes? Claim to be a man of peace and six short years later there is freedom!
They granted his release amidst heated controversy during his eighth parole hearing in March.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association on Friday slammed the decision and called on the New York State legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “fix the broken NYS Parole Board system.”
“The current parole process contains gigantic loopholes that allow murderous monsters like Herman Bell to game the system by concocting a phony story tailor-made for the new parole guidelines, which don’t place enough weight on the nature of the crime,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement.
“To make matters worse, the courts seem to believe that politically-appointed parole board members have unbridled discretion to release criminals onto our streets and are completely immune from challenge by anyone, even when they disregard the law or the board’s own procedures. That must change.”
Diane Piagentini, the widow of Officer Joseph Piagentini, said in a statement “there are no words to describe our outrage and disappointment in Governor Cuomo.”
“Governor Cuomo’s parole board appointees have seen fit to release an individual who is intelligent enough to plan and execute both robberies and assassinations of police officers across the country. The parole board did not take into account his mental stability,” the statement read.
“He is a planner and a manipulator, and he will persuade young people to his way of thinking – just like he manipulated the parole board to release him.”
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan also slammed Cuomo for allowing Bell’s release, calling it a “slap in the face” to the victims.
“[Bell] should never see the light of day,” Flanagan said in a statement.
“Our primary obligation as elected officials is to keep New Yorkers safe in their homes, on their streets, and in their communities. Instead, the Governor has put politics ahead of the public interest.”
A full panel of appellate judges will hear the motion to put Bell back behind bars on May 4, a week after his release.