Syracuse, NY – Many law enforcement advocates were unhappy that former President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of convicted cop killer Jaime Davidson just a few hours before he left office.
Davidson, now 52, was convicted of having run a drug ring and directed the robbery that led to the murder of 31-year-old Syracuse Police Officer Wallie Howard in 1990, The Post-Standard reported.
Officer Howard was working undercover for the Central New York Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Task Force when he was killed.
He was waiting in his undercover vehicle in a grocery store parking lot to make a drug buy at about 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, 1990 when he was approached by two men who intended to rob him, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP).
One of the suspects jumped into the driver’s seat of Officer Howard’s vehicle with a .22-caliber handgun.
When Officer Howard reached for his own weapon, the other suspect shot him in the head at point blank range through the passenger window with a .357 revolver, ODMP reported.
Officer Howard managed to get off two shots at the suspect in the driver’s seat before he was killed and wounded him.
The suspects attempted to flee the scene but were quickly arrested by Officer Howard’s backup at the drug buy, ODMP reported.
Officer Howard died that evening without ever regaining consciousness.
The officer, a nine-year veteran of the Syracuse Police Department, left behind a fiancé and two small children, according to ODMP.
The suspect convicted of shooting Officer Howard, Robert “Bam Bam” Lawrence, was 16 years old when he killed the police officer, The Post-Standard reported.
Lawrence was released on parole in October of 2020.
Davidson, who was considered the mastermind behind the murder, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for Officer Howard’s death, WSTM reported.
Records show that Davidson applied for a pardon and was denied by the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney in 2013 and 2017, The Post-Standard reported.
But despite that, Davidson’s name appeared on a list of pardons and commutations made by now-former President Trump in the early hours of Jan. 20, NBC News reported.
The White House said that Alice Johnson, who notably worked with President Trump’s administration on a number of pardons for low-level offenders with long sentences, had advocated on the cop killer’s behalf.
“Notably, witnesses who testified against Mr. Davidson later recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits and further attested that Mr. Davidson had no involvement,” according to the commutation announcement by the Trump administration. “Although Mr. Davidson has been incarcerated for nearly 29 years, the admitted shooter has already been released from prison.”
Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner said he was “very disappointed” with the President’s decision to release one of Officer Howard’s killers from prison, WSTM reported.
“We respect the president’s right to pardon individuals for their crimes,” Chief Buckner said. “However, we are very disappointed he has now received a commutation of his sentence. My heart goes out to the Howard family, and the men and women of SPD who have suffered a significant loss.”
The Syracuse Police Benevolent Association (PBA) also expressed displeasure with the commutation, WSTM reported.
“During a time when police are under such scrutiny, this is another blow to the law enforcement profession,” the union president, Joseph Moran, said. “The commutation of Davidson, along with the release of Robert ‘Bam Bam’ Lawrence, has reopened wounds at SPD and for the Howard family. We are deeply saddened by this decision.”
Davidson was released from Federal Correctional Institution Williamsburg in Salters, South Carolina on Wednesday, The Post-Standard reported.
He had served 29 years of his life sentence for Officer Howard’s murder.
Davidson has vowed to continue legal efforts to clear his name post-incarceration, WSTM reported.