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With New York City facing an alarming spike in homicides – including the murders of two NYPD officers last Friday — U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican challenger Desi Cuellar is proposing a federal death penalty for convicted cop killers.
Cuellar’s plan comes amid an alarming “war on police” nationwide – with at least six officers killed in the line of duty in the U.S. so far in 2022 and others shot at, attacked or otherwise targeted by criminals, according to data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.
And this year follows 2021, which was the “deadliest year for law enforcement officers in history,” according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Cuellar spoke about the recent violence against police in an interview with Fox News Digital.
“What breaks my heart the most is that officers like Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora are heroes — everybody says that, nobody has a problem saying that,” Cuellar said Wednesday. “But it is a shame that our brave men and women who risk their lives every day to protect us have to die before we look at them or refer to them as heroes.”
Thousands of people attended Rivera’s wake Thursday afternoon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan – civilians and officers alike, with uniformed mourners coming from as far as Virginia, Canada, Massachusetts and overseas to pay their respects. His funeral was scheduled for Friday.
Mora, whose organ donations will save the lives of five individuals, is set to be laid to rest next week.
Cuellar, an Army National guardsman and descendant of Cuban refugees who fled the communist Castro regime, announced his proposal minutes before taking part in a rally in support of the slain officers outside Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office Wednesday.
Bragg’s progressive policies three weeks into his first term as prosecutor have been criticized as soft on crime and blamed for a rash of violence in the borough.
“The blood of these officers is on the hands of these spineless politicians like AOC, or anybody on city council, or even the mayor right now, unless he does something about it,” Cuellar said, referring to new NYC Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who campaigned on a pro-police platform and served in the NYPD himself. “Nobody in politics on the left cares about holding back the criminals, all they care about is holding back the police.”
“Nobody in politics on the left cares about holding back the criminals, all they care about is holding back the police.”
Rivera, 22, and Mora, 27, died from injuries suffered last Friday night when a 47-year-old domestic violence suspect with a stolen .45-caliber handgun ambushed them in his mother’s Harlem apartment, opening the bedroom door with a barrage of bullets.
“The problem we face today is that the mindset of the modern criminal is one that understands that they will not face severe consequences for their violent actions,” Cuellar said. “And honestly, it feels like we are getting a lack of action on this crisis from both sides of the aisle. Everyone needs to wake up.”
Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant and spokeswoman for the National Police Association, agreed that leaders on both sides of the political spectrum could speak out more on the country’s rising crime. She said Republicans could benefit from speaking out about an issue their voters support.
She also said that while Rivera’s shooting death drew a lot of attention because he was so young and newly married, she hopes people continue to pay attention to the alarming rise in violence.
“He’s just so damn young,” she said. “Everybody looks at him and thinks, that could be my son, that could be my grandson, my brother.”
If the issue remains on voters’ minds, it could lead to change, she said.
“We used to, if you were that kind of criminal, committing horrible violent felonies, at some point you would get a lengthy prison sentence,” Brantner Smith said. “That’s not happening as much in a lot of cases.”
Especially in jurisdictions with progressive prosecutors backed by the left-wing billionaire George Soros, according to critics of no-bail policies and members of law enforcement irked by some DAs’ reluctance to prosecute minor crimes.
New York has seen five police shootings in the first four weeks of 2022.
In Houston, where police were still reeling from the murder of Harris County Cpl. Charles Galloway over the weekend and the death of Harris County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ramon Gutierrez on Monday after a drunken driver slammed into him during a traffic stop, three city police officers were shot Thursday afternoon by a suspect who fled in a white Mercedes but was later apprehended.
Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on policing or crime in the Big Apple on Thursday – but she did show up at a rally over the weekend in support of the right for delivery drivers to take bathroom breaks.
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.