Lashawn McNeil: Gunman's argument with mom over VEGAN diet led to shocking Harlem ambush

Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was killed, and Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, was gravely wounded in the shooting

                            Lashawn McNeil: Gunman's argument with mom over VEGAN diet led to shocking Harlem ambush
Lashawn McNeil (C) fatally shot Officer Jason Rivera (R) and gravely wounded Officer Wilbert Mora (L) (NYPD)

A man who allegedly ambushed and shot two NYPD officers — killing one in the process — is reportedly a convicted felon who was on probation at the time of the shooting.

47-year-old Lashawn McNeil was hospitalized in critical condition Friday night, January 21, after he was shot in the head and arm by a third officer as he tried to flee the scene. NYPD Chief of detectives James Essig revealed at a press conference how the suspect was sitting in the back bedroom of an apartment at 119 West 135th Street when he swung the door open and allegedly fired on two cops. Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was killed, and Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, was gravely wounded, the New York Post reported.


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Essig explained how McNeil already had a violent criminal record prior to the shooting. In fact, he was on probation for a 2003 felony narcotics conviction in New York City at the time of the incident. Meanwhile, he also had a number of prior arrests outside of the Big Apple. In 1998, he was arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon in South Carolina. In 2002, McNeil was busted for assaulting a police officer in Pennsylvania. Then, in 2003, the suspect was arrested twice in Pennsylvania — once on a felony drug count and also on a misdemeanor narcotics charge. Essig said McNeil's last known address was in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

He had previously shared anti-police and anti-government propaganda on his Facebook page. One post included a link to a video of the rap song “Hands Up” by Uncle Murda and Maino. The video — considered a tribute to Eric Garner, who died at the hands of the NYPD in 2014, and other victims of police violence — shows the two rappers pointing guns at a cop’s head.


What happened?

Officers Rivera, Mora, and a third cop responded to a domestic disturbance call from a woman at around 6:15 pm after she said she needed help with her son. Essig said the woman "mentioned no injuries and no weapons" when she made the call. Upon arriving at the apartment, the three officers were met by the caller and another son, who informed them that the son she was having problems with was in the back bedroom down a "very tight" hallway about 30 feet long. While one of the officers stayed with the family, the other two approached the back bedroom to talk to him. Moments later, McNeil emerged holding a Glock 45 handgun.

"The door swings open, and numerous shots were fired striking both officers," Essig said. “As the perpetrator attempted to exit, he is confronted by our third officer, who fires two rounds striking him in the right arm and the head."

Rivera, the first officer in the hallway, was hit first and fell onto his back. The remorseless gunman then stepped over his body as he continued to fire at Mora, who was shot in the head. 

Rivera was carried by fellow cops across the street to the emergency room of Harlem Hospital but was pronounced dead. Mora’s condition is grave and has a bullet lodged in his brain. He is expected to undergo a second surgery. "We’re hoping he makes it through that struggle,” Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said outside the hospital, according to New York Post

Police sources told New York Daily News that the ambush was set off by a bizarre family feud between the mother and her ex-con son over his vegan diet. McNeil is a vegan but his mother isn’t, police sources said


Authorities recovered an illegal Glock 45, equipped with a “high capacity magazine” that holds an additional 40 rounds, giving the shooter a total of 50 rounds to fire. The weapon was reported stolen from Baltimore in 2017 and the authorities are currently working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to find more information on the gun. Essig noted that the investigation is active and underway, and members of the community are urged to contact the police. “We are working through why this brutal, senseless ambush of two of our police officers occurred,” he said.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams pledged to tackle the gun violence crisis and go after the gun dealers in the wake of the shooting. “Officers have taken thousands of guns off the streets, but they need help. The help is to stop the flow, and that is what the federal government must do,” Adams said.

President Joe Biden responded to the tragedy on Twitter: "Jill and I are saddened to hear two NYPD officers were shot last night — one fatally," he wrote.