By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City man was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday for gunning down a police officer in 2015, a murder that particularly incensed city officials, who said the repeat offender should have been in jail at the time of the killing.
Tyrone Howard, 32, was convicted of killing Officer Randolph Holder, a crime that took place soon after Howard was sentenced to treatment on a drug charge despite a long history of offenses. At the time of shooting, he also was a suspect in a gang-related murder.
Dozens of police officers packed the courtroom for the sentencing at state Supreme Court in Manhattan, as Howard slouched silently in his seat.
"The shooting of a New York City police officer is in many ways an attack on the entire community," Judge Michael Obus said before handing down the sentence to Howard, whom he described as an "extremely dangerous individual."
Howard declined to address the courtroom during the hearing. As he was led away in handcuffs, the officers stood and clapped.
"Rot in Hell!" screamed a female relative of Holder as Howard left the courtroom.
The killing unfolded in October 2015 after Howard shot repeatedly into a crowd of people on an East Harlem street and then stole a bicycle at gunpoint.
He quickly ran into Holder and his partner, who were responding to the report of the shooting, and then shot the officer.
Howard was convicted on six charges, including first-degree murder, aggravated murder and robbery.
Howard had numerous drug and robbery arrests dating back to when he was 13 years old, Assistant District Attorney Linda Ford told the court. Since that first arrest, Howard had spent no more than a year at a time out of prison, Ford said.
"This life of crime culminated in the events of October 20, 2015," Ford said.
In the drug case prior to Holder's shooting, Howard had been sentenced to a rehabilitation program as part of a plea bargain for selling crack cocaine. But he never completed his treatment.
After the shooting, his punishment in that case was changed to 12 years in prison.
When Howard was charged in Holder's murder, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner William Bratton criticized the outcome of the earlier case. They suggested that two state judges erred in allowing Howard to remain on the streets despite his long history of offenses.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Dan Grebler)