Updated May 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

NYPD officer fired gun during raid on Columbia protesters

NYPD officers in riot gear break into a building at Columbia University, where pro-Palestinian students are barricaded inside a building and have set up an encampment, in New York City on April 30

NYPD officers break into Columbia University's Hamilton Hall on April 30. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

A New York police officer fired his gun inside Columbia University's Hamilton Hall on Tuesday night as officers cleared out pro-Palestinian protesters from the building.

Why it matters: The incident is currently being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, The City reported, which also first reported news of the shooting.

The big picture: NYPD Assistant Chief Carlos Valdez confirmed at a press conference Friday that a member of the Emergency Service Unit had been attempting to access a barricaded area in Hamilton Hall while using firearm equipped with a flashlight.

  • The sergeant accidentally discharged the firearm, with the bullet landing on the floor, resulting in no injuries, Valdez said.
  • "This was purely unintentional," he added.
  • The NYPD also confirmed Friday that it had provided the relevant body camera footage to the Manhattan DA's office.

Zoom in: "Moving forward, we will obviously counsel the officer and send him to retraining, and we'll take it from there," Valdez added.

  • The sergeant has been a member of the NYPD unit for eight years and has an "impeccable record," according to Valdez.
  • State of play: Police were attempting to clear out Columbia's Hamilton Hall Tuesday night hours after protesters had occupied and barricaded the building.
  • Columbia has begun suspending students who refused to leave the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus and has threatened students who occupied Hamilton Hall with expulsion.
  • University president Minouche Shafik on Tuesday had requested the NYPD help clear out the building and all encampments on campus.
  • NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell confirmed at a press conference Wednesday that 109 protesters were arrested on Columbia's campus during Tuesday night's action.

Zoom out: Pro-Palestinian protests across the country have faced increased crackdowns from school administrations while also becoming a powerful symbol of the unpopularity of the Biden administration's support for Israel.

  • President Biden on Thursday defended students' right to protest but condemned the "chaos" of violent demonstrations.
  • More than 2,000 protesters have been arrested on college campuses nationwide.
  • Meanwhile, other schools have reached agreements with protesters to defuse tensions on campus.
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