Fourth New York police officer shot dead in 11 months

New York Police block the scene where the shooting of Officer Randolph Holder occurred in the Manhattan borough of New York, Oct 21, 2015.
New York Police block the scene where the shooting of Officer Randolph Holder occurred in the Manhattan borough of New York, Oct 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - A New York police officer died after being shot in the head during a shootout in Harlem, the fourth killed in the line of duty in less than a year, officials said Wednesday.

Randolph Holder, a 33-year-old Guyanese immigrant who had been on the force for five years, was pronounced dead in hospital at 10:22 pm on Tuesday (0222 GMT Wednesday), police commissioner Bill Bratton said.

The man suspected of his murder has been arrested, and three other men have been detained for questioning, the commissioner added.

Holder and his partners had been responding to gun shots in the Harlem area of Manhattan when a male victim told officers that his bike had been stolen at gunpoint by one of the suspects, police said.

Officers pursued the suspects and encountered a man on a bicycle. In an exchange of fire between the suspect and officers, Holder was struck in the head, Bratton said.

He "ran toward danger," the New York police chief told reporters. "It was the last time he will respond to that call." Holder's father and grandfather worked as police officers in Guyana on the northern coast of South America.

The killing will likely raise further questions about an increase in violent crime in America's largest city, where tensions have been palpable between the police and local communities.

"Four police officers murdered in 11 months - that's about as bad as it gets," Bratton acknowledged Wednesday.

The latest statistics released by the police department show 275 murders in New York over the last 12 months, compared to 254 in the same period last year, an increase of 8.3 percent.

The chief suspect arrested for Holder's death is in custody and being treated for gunshot wounds to his leg, police said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the entire city was in mourning for "a man who gave his life as a guardian for all of us." Rising crime is a sensitive subject in a city where rates fell steadily under previous mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani.

There are currently 34,500 police officers in New York. The city has a population of nearly 8.5 million.