The Bronx was still celebrating the Fourth of July and fireworks were going off seemingly everywhere as 51-year-old Brenda Moore left her home to get her husband a cup of coffee shortly before 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The nearest corner store was fresh out and Moore started down E. 183rd Street toward another, passing an RV-sized NYPD mobile command post that had been parked there as a crime deterrent after a shooting several months before.
Moore decided the extra block walk was a bit of good luck when she saw that the person at the wheel of the outsized vehicle was Police Officer Miosotis Familia. Moore always offers a friendly greeting to the officers she encounters and Familia always answered her with a friendly word and a particularly warming smile.
“I said, ‘How are you?’” Moore would recall. “She said, “I’m fine, how are you?’”
Then came the smile from Familia that was not just any smile. Moore continued on to her home two blocks away, her spirits lifted as always by this very particular cop.
“She was so sweet,” Moore later said. “Very sweet, good person.”
Moore likely would have heard a single gunshot coming up the block from where she had just been, but it was lost in the cacophony of America’s birthday as celebrated in the Bronx.
“I thought it was just fireworks,” she would recall.
As she arrived home and gave her husband the coffee, Moore might have heard a flurry of other gunshots a block and a half away, but those were also lost in the fireworks. She decided to return to the street and enjoy the night air and the last of the holiday.
But when she stepped from her building, she encountered a world suddenly transformed. The Fourth of July was ending with emergency lights and sirens and the urgent shouts of cops racing down the street.
“Cops were going crazy,” she later said. “I seen the ambulance and figured somebody got shot.”
Moore turned back inside and rejoined her husband, 32-year-old Brian Hayes. They emerged together later, as the city was rousing itself to another workday at the end of a four-day weekend. Moore was surprised to see the corner of Creston Avenue and E. 183rd Street was closed off with crime scene tape hours after whatever had happened.
“I said, ‘Why do they have the street blocked up? I don’t understand,’” she would recall.
When Moore reached the tape, she peered down E. 183rd Street to see the command post standing with the passenger door open, the glass shattered. She learned that within minutes of when she paused to greet Familia, a man had walked up to the mobile command center in a manner police would later describe as “with purpose.”
Familia had been making an entry in her memo book in preparation for the imminent end of her tour, but she no doubt would have answered with that particular smile if the man had offered her a greeting. He instead drew a silver 5-shot Ruger .38 caliber revolver and fired once through the passenger side window, striking the 48-year-old mother of three in the head.
Familia’s partner was in the vehicle. He had made a desperate call over the radio.
“Shots fired!” he can be heard saying before repeatedly yelling the code for an officer down. “I need a f-----g bus! 10-85 10-85! My partner’s shot! My partner’s shot! Hurry up central!”
A bus is an ambulance. A 10-85 is the radio code for officer needs assistance. Two other officers were there within moments and pursued the gunman around the corner. The gunman fired and the cops responded, killing him, the shots sounding to anyone out of sight like just more fireworks. The Ruger revolver was recovered at the scene.
The ambulance rushed Familia to Saint Barnabas Hospital, where the trauma team fought to save her. She died three hours later. A line of cops stood outside and saluted as her body was carried out to an ambulance for the trip to the medical examiner’s office.
By then, the gunman had been identified as a 34-year-old parolee named Alexander Bonds. He had been living in a homeless shelter in Manhattan until five months ago, when he moved with his girlfriend into an apartment in the Bronx. He had ranted online about the police.
"N----s ain't taking it no more, Mr. Officer," he declared at the end of a Facebook live posting, "I'm here to tell you man. … just keep your ass away from mine.”
At 9 a.m., a group of grieving cops gathered at the scene around the command post. They stood for a time in silent prayer, one officer wiping away the tears streaming down her face. Her wet cheeks shone brightly in the summer morning sun.
They then walked the five blocks back to the 46th Precinct stationhouse. Black and purple bunting signaling deep mourning had been hung over the entrance and flowers had been left on either side of the doors. The American flag atop the building had been lowered to half-staff, the nation’s birthday having been followed by searing loss.
But there came a kind of miracle as cops began to file out. They were heading out into the streets to resume protecting the city at the risk of suffering the fate of their comrades.
Back at the scene, Moore stood with her husband, wiping away her tears just as one of the officers had. She spoke of all the times in recent weeks when she had seen Familia at the wheel of the command post and been warmed by that smile.
“She was always sitting right there outside the beauty supply store,” Moore said.
The command post still stood outside Precious Beauty Supply and Lindita Nails and a pediatric clinic, the lights atop it flashing as they had been through the weeks to signal an added police presence in the wake of violence.
“That was the safety,” Moore said “They made us feel safe. Look at it…”
“He just shot her right in the head,” the husband said.
“Terrible,” Moore said.
Moore had not seen the partner when she stopped to greet Familia and the news of the shooting had been all the more horrifying by the thought that this warm and outgoing cop had not had somebody with her. Moore was glad to learn otherwise.
“Her partner must have been in the back,” Moore said. “I thought she was alone. I was upset.”
Moore was crying again as she turned away from the scene and started back down the block with her husband.
“She was just so sweet,” Moore said.