Less than one month after the mayor signed into law a bill that would rename a busy Bay Ridge street corner in memory of the 68th Precinct officer who died protecting it, Patrolman David Guttenberg’s killer’s accomplice was released from parole.
Pablo “Paul” Costello, 61, who was paroled in 2014, was released from parole without any supervision on Friday, July 7 – just two days after NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia was shot in the head while sitting in a marked police truck in the Bronx.
“The timing is terrible,” said 68th Precinct Auxiliary Police Sergeant Christian Durante who, with full support from the fallen officer’s family, spearheaded the movement to memorialize Guttenberg earlier this year. “It’s a travesty of justice. He shouldn’t have been released in the first place, and to release parole supervision in the same week that Detective Familia was murdered for wearing the same uniform as Patrolman David Guttenberg is an outrage.”
On December 28, 1978, Costello acted as a lookout outside the Dyker Auto Supply Shop while his accomplice Luis Angel Torres held up two employees at gunpoint. Guttenberg’s end of watch came minutes later when, with the intention of avoiding giving a ticket to a double-parked car during the holidays, he entered the auto parts store – then located near the corner of Seventh Avenue and 86th Street – to find the car’s owner, and was instead shot three times in the chest and heart.
Despite rescue efforts by both passersby and first responders – including the late Larry Morrish who, according to State Senator Marty Golden, attempted to resuscitate the fallen officer – Guttenberg died just a couple of blocks away from the crime scene, at the old Victory Memorial Hospital, in the arms of his wife, Barbara.
Guttenberg was just 49 years old – 19 of those spent serving the New York City Police Department – and left behind four children. He was one year from retirement at the time of his slaying.
In 1980, a judge sentenced both Costello and Torres to life in prison which, at that time meant at least a lifetime of state supervision, even if paroled. Torres died in confinement in 1996. Subsequently, in 2008, the law was changed to allow discretionary lifting of parole even for convicts serving a maximum life term.
Now, three years after his release from prison, Torres’ partner-in-crime is a free man, despite pleas to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision from Guttenberg’s daughter Helaine Guttenberg-Ginsberg, who was just 18 when her father was murdered.
“It’s a shame that he got parole, especially after the death of Officer Familia,” said Golden, a former NYPD officer who served his city at the time of the shooting. The local pol recalled Familia’s funeral earlier this week, noting that the same family members that stood up on stage at the service crying their hearts out are now “probably by themselves, going through something very, very terrible.
“And that’s what this man did to Guttenberg’s family when he helped take his life,” he went on. “He left that family the same way that this family has been left – without a parent. It’s unbelievable that they would allow this criminal back into the community where he took a life that meant so much to so many people.”
“I strongly condemn the decision by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to release [Costello], the getaway driver in the Officer Guttenberg murder, from parole supervision,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “I have always been steadfast on law and order issues, and a robust supporter of our NYPD, and this is certainly an instance where I feel very strongly that the wrong decision was made.”
Under the shadow of the parole board’s decision and with heavy hearts – and a freshly minted signature from the mayor –Bay Ridge is pushing forward with its forthcoming tribute to its hero in blue.
Later this year, the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 86th Street will be co-named “Patrolman David Guttenberg Way” at a ceremony that, Durante says, will include relatives of Guttenberg’s from across the country.
“The greatest gift we can give someone when they leave us is remembering them,” said Durante. “This street renaming is not the end of the story of Patrolman David Guttenberg, but rather the continuation of his legacy.”