NY: Shocked by retired cops' deaths

Newsday (New York)

The headlines were enough to shock any New Yorker, in a time when an increasing number of city cops are wounded or killed by gunfire. On Monday, in unrelated incidents, two retired police officers were shot, one fatally, and both allegedly by other police officers.

It is a rarity for sure, experts say, but one that is perhaps expected in a city that is home to the world's largest police force. For one thing, the tens of thousands of officers who have retired during the past decades have been allowed to keep their service revolvers.

"The fact that you have so many [retired] people who have firearms, who are human and are fallible, and get into the things humans get into, it has to be expected on some level," said Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

One such incident occurred Monday night when retired NYPD officer Allen Lau fatally shot another retired officer as a result of road rage, police said. Lau, 46, was awaiting arraignment in Staten Island Criminal Court on charges of murder and attempted murder.

Police sources say Lau became angry that the other driver, retired Port Authority Police Officer Steven Vitale, was driving slowly in front of him in Staten Island. Lau took out his service revolver and shot Vitale, 55, four times, authorities said. After an hours-long standoff at his Staten Island house, Lau surrendered to police at about 2:20 yesterday morning. Police last night were weighing charges against Lau, who was undergoing psychological evaluation, officials said.

The officers' paths had never crossed on the job. Lau had a 20-year career in Manhattan's 17th Precinct. Vitale also had two decades as a cop, the last part of which he spent directing K-9 unit officers after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Monday's other cop-on-cop shooting involved an off-duty officer and a retired officer who are married.

Alison Jamison, an 11-year officer in Brooklyn's 70th Precinct, drove up to her husband's car in Brooklyn and fired a barrage of bullets, police said.

Four of them struck retired police Officer Todd Jamison, 43, who left the force last year after 20 years in the same precinct. Jamison remained in stable condition yesterday in Brookdale Hospital Center.

The Staten Island couple were having marital problems, a police source said. Alison Jamison, 42, had been taken to the 75th Precinct, where she was charged with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. She had not been questioned because she requested an attorney, police said.

The Police Department in recent administrations has attempted to pre-empt the myriad personal problems that can affect officers on and off the job with programs against domestic violence and a hotline for suicide prevention.

"The department does not take it for granted that this is something for which they have no control," said Robert McCrie, a police historian at John Jay. 

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