1970s radical and cop killer to be freed on parole

The New York State Board of Parole has approved the release of a notorious convicted cop killer who was a member of a radical group in the 1970s.

Herman Bell, 70, and two other members of the Black Liberation Army were convicted of luring Patrolman Joseph Piagentini and Patrolman Waverly Jones to a housing complex in Harlem with a 911 call and then shooting them to death in 1971.

Authorities said Jones died from a single shot but Piagentini was shot 22 times.

A judge sentenced Bell in 1979 to 25 years to life. New York did not have the death penalty at that time.

"We are angered and sickened that this horrible person, who was devoid of any human compassion or empathy when he continued to shoot my already wounded husband, Joseph, while he pleaded for his life for the sake of his family, will now be free to walk out of prison," Diane Piagentini, the officer's widow, said in a statement released by a police union. "My family and I believe that the members of parole board who made this horrible decision have not only betrayed the trust of all the line of duty police families, but have also failed in their duty to protect the citizens of this state."

Bell's supporters call him a "political prisoner" and have been pushing for his release. For many years, he denied his guilt and claimed he had been framed. Then before the parole board in 2012, Bell copped to his involvement in the murders.

"Who wants to acknowledge, who really wants to deal with the issues of killing another human being?" he said, according to a transcript, about why he had denied his guilt. "I wanted to accept that fact that I committed this offense, I wanted to show remorse, but I didn't really know how to express that to the Board."

In a statement, Patrick Lynch, the president of the PBA, called Bell a "domestic terrorist" and said he had no words to express his "anger and disgust."

"His release on parole is a painful affront to the families of every police officer who has sacrificed his or her life in the line of duty," Lynch said. "We are disgusted, offended and extremely angry with this parole board’s decision."

Bell can be released from Shawangunk Prison in Ulster County on or after April 1, state officials said.

With the AP