Brown: New York City Police Officer Jonathan Diller’s Death Could Have Been Prevented

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Keith P. Brown (R,C-Northport) in response to a press conference led by the Assembly and Senate Minority Conferences on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, calling on the Albany Majority to include public safety measures in the final state budget agreement to address the tragic loss of NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Monday, March 25, 2024.

My thoughts go out to the family of New York City Police Officer Jonathan Diller who was tragically shot to death during a routine traffic stop in Queens last week. Some individuals, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, are quick to blame recidivism and mental illness as reasons behind the shooting. However, if judges were given more discretion to hold repeat offenders with violent criminal histories without bail, the driver of the vehicle, Lindy Jones, and accused gunman, Guy Rivera, might have been stopped before their crimes escalated to murder. Further, despite Jones being held without bail on weapons charges and Rivera, who remains hospitalized, being charged with first-degree murder among other charges, this is simply too little too late.

Officer Jonathan Diller’s family is grieving tremendously and deserves justice. It is tragic this crime was ever allowed to occur—both suspects involved in the shooting were known violent criminals. Guy Rivera, the accused gunman, has been arrested 21 times, and nine of those arrests resulted in felony charges. Rivera served time in prison for criminal sale of a controlled substance and assault. Lindy Jones, the driver, has been arrested at least 14 times, and previously served 10 years in prison for attempted murder and robbery.

Both men have been released on bail after being charged with violent crimes in the past, and both are flight risks, often missing scheduled court dates. While I am relieved both suspects are off the streets, I am disgusted these two men were ever allowed back on the streets to begin with prior to the shooting. While a major goal of our criminal justice system is to help rehabilitate criminals, there also comes a point where we must consider whether rehabilitation is in fact possible. Throughout their lives, Jones and Rivera have proven they are not willing to change and allowing them to walk free after repeatedly serving time for violent crimes posed an extreme risk that ultimately resulted in this tragedy.

 Despite the fact that Rivera has been charged with murder in the first degree, there are existing laws that could potentially spell disaster down the road in this case. Even with this hefty charge, it is not mandated that an individual convicted of first-degree murder be sentenced to life without parole, and the death penalty is no longer an option in New York state. However, I am a co-sponsor of Minority Assembly Bill A.3481, which would mandate an individual convicted of murder in the first degree be sentenced to either life without parole or death. I will continue to fight for this and similar proposals from the Assembly Minority Conference to establish punishments that fit the crime committed. These two suspects were involved in a deadly shooting and killed a police officer in cold blood while he was simply doing his duty. In turn, they took a father from his child, a husband from his wife and a caring person from the community he loved and served to protect. If this crime is not grounds for life without parole or the death penalty, we will only continue to see crimes like this occur again and again.

There is currently an atmosphere of lawlessness. Our criminal justice system needs to be fixed to protect our men and women police officers, so families like the one Officer Jonathan Diller left behind do not have to suffer the aftermath of such a horrific crime. I am currently working on several proposals to help improve public safety and protect law enforcement in our state. I am proud to have sponsored Assembly Bill A.8594, also known as the “Smash and Grab” bill, which would clearly establish the crime of coordinated petit larceny, permit those involved to be held on bail and create a public service campaign on larceny. I am also proud to be drafting a bill that will establish a real property tax exemption for widows and widowers of police officers killed in the line of duty. Creating as many deterrents and firm punishments as possible and offering tax relief to individuals whose spouses in uniform were killed in the line of duty will help combat crime and offer support for the brave men and women who help keep us safe throughout our state.

Now is the time to incorporate common-sense solutions into the state budget to fix New York state’s criminal justice system—no more hollow promises, it is time for action.

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