A 70-year-old Black Liberation Army member who’s been behind bars nearly 45 years for killing two cops in the 1970s has been granted parole, authorities said Wednesday.
A state parole board approved Herman Bell’s release following a hearing on March 1 — Bell’s eighth, officials said.
He’s expected to be released in April, officials said.
Bell, Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington ambushed Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones after luring them to the Colonial Park Houses — now the Rangel Houses — on W. 159th St. with a bogus 911 call on May 21, 1971.
Jones was shot in the head and died instantly, but the three suspects took their time with Piagentini — shooting him 22 times.
Piagentini begged for his life before the end, telling Bell and his cohorts that he had a wife and two children at home.
Cops arrested Bell a few months later after he traveled to the west coast, where he killed another cop. He was convicted of killing the two cops in 1979.
In 2009, Bell also pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the August 1971 murder of Sgt. John Young in San Francisco. When he hammered out the deal, it was agreed that Bell’s sentence would run concurrently with his New York case.
For the last few decades, Bell has made a case for his release, his lawyer Robert Boyle said.
“He has satisfied all the criteria for parole, he has expressed remorse, he has an unblemished prison record and he’s been extremely involved in helping others inside,” Boyle said. “It is only correct that the parole board apply the law in this controversial case and granted him parole and we are gratified they did so.”
Boyle said Bell is pleased with the parole board’s decision, but won’t make a statement “out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Piagentini’s widow, Diane, who gave a statement during Bell’s last parole hearing demanding that he die in prison, was alerted to the parole board’s decision Wednesday morning.
She’s now demanding the parole board be fired.
“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,” she said in a statement.
“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.”
NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the parole board’s decision to free Bell is “indefensible.”
“It trivializes and condones the premeditated assassinations of NYPD Officers Piagentini and Jones,” O’Neill said. “It also reopens the wounds suffered not just by these heroic officers’ relatives, but by the entire law enforcement community and all of civil society.”
Word of Bell’s release also outraged the city’s largest police union.
“There are no words to express our anger and disgust that they have granted release to a cold-blooded cop-killer who successfully gamed the system in two states to win his freedom,” Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said in a statement.
“Herman Bell, a domestic terrorist and member of the Black Liberation Army, is responsible for the death of three fine law enforcement officers. 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.”
Late last year, a state corrections officer was suspended for beating Bell in an apparently unprovoked prison attack.
When they granted Bell’s parole, members noted his “regard for the pain and suffering” he caused his victims’ family.
“You repeatedly expressed your regret and remorse for your crimes,” the parole board said in its findings. “Your admission denoted maturation and insight.”
During the parole hearing, Bell admitted his wrongdoing, and stepped away from his affiliation with the BLA.
“There was nothing political about the act,” he said of the killings. “As much as I thought at the time, it was murder and horribly wrong.”
“It was horrible, something that I did, and feel great remorse for having done it,” he said.
Corrections Officer Jeremy Saunders, who worked at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility, is accused — along with two other guards — of jumping Bell on Sept. 5.
Saunders has been suspended without pay as an investigation into the alleged beatdown continues, sources told The News.
After the jail attack, Bell was taken out of solitary confinement and transferred to the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, officials said.