Gun recovery in river offers window into NYPD scuba unit

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2015 5:08 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — For five days, police scuba divers, working in pairs, combed 67,000 square feet of riverbed while on their stomachs in search of the handgun believed to have been used in the fatal shooting of a New York City police officer last week.

After hours spent 20 feet below the surface of the dark, murky water of Manhattan's Harlem River, one of those divers, Det. John Mortimer, noticed something out of the corner of his eye around 3 a.m. Sunday: a .40-caliber black Glock pistol.

"It was a relief," Mortimer told reporters Monday as officials described the methodical search for the weapon used to kill Officer Randolph Holder on Oct. 20.

Tests have since confirmed that the recovered weapon was used in Holder's death, as well as in an earlier shooting that night to which Holder had initially responded, officials said.

Tyrone Howard, 30, was arrested and charged with murder in the killing. His attorney has said more details about the case need to be known.

Officials said Monday that police divers had to perform a grueling inch-by-inch search of the riverbed, using their arms to perform elbow-to-hand sweeps amid almost zero visibility in some places. At other times, the divers had to suspend the search to wait for slack tides so that the 30 divers who belong to the 160-person harbor unit wouldn't tire themselves out fighting against strong currents.

"It could get up to five or six knots over there which is way faster than Michael Phelps could swim," said Captain Anthony Russo, the commanding officer of the harbor unit.

The weapon was found about 40 feet from the shoreline near 123rd Street, three blocks north of where Holder, 33, was shot, officials said.

The divers used a so-called jackstay search to cover the potential crime scene, methodically scouring a grid using a 75-foot pattern line rope with grapple hooks on either side to demarcate the search area. Divers on each side then physically touched the ground as they progressively moved forward to find any objects below water.

Among the other items discovered in the search: Fishing polls, a car alternator and an old, rusted .22-caliber handgun.