After more than 47 years in prison for a 1973 cop killing, a 74 year old man Salih Abdullah died from a stroke while attending his parole hearing.
According to the New York Daily News, Salih died in the middle of his 14th parole hearing after exiting the virtual session to use the bathroom and was now found unconscious inside a lavatory at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York.
He then died days later at a Buffalo, New York hospital.
According to police, Abdullah was the last of four co-defendants still locked up after he and his gang carried out an infamous two-day, Williamsburg sports store robbery-turned-hostage situation in 1973 that led to the shooting death of police officer, Stephen Gilroy.
In the 47 hours fight, two other officers were wounded in the gun battles between the police and the armed suspects.
Abdullah was first eligible for parole in 1997, when he was just 51. All three of his co-defendants were already out of prison by the time of his latest hearing on Sept. 16.
“They released our first co-defendant after 25 years," said his crime partner Shu’aib Raheem, who was paroled in 2010.
“Same case, identical charges,” Raheem said. "I was the leader. I’m the one who should have been in there still. They should have let him [Abdullah] go earlier. It tears me apart.
“He deserved to come home," said Raheem. “He should have been home a long time ago.”
Abdullah had already prepared a place to live in advance of his hearing and planned on starting a business with his brother’s help as he was optimistic about being released.
He was already 22 years past the minimum of his 25-year-to-life sentence.
“When you get less than two years, that’s a good sign,” said his lawyer, Emilee Sahli. “Getting one year was a good indication they were seriously considering him for release."
In 1973, the four Black Sunni Muslim men said they were robbing the sports store to get weapons for self-defense.
According to them they feared for their lives after the massacre of seven Black Sunni Muslims by a group of rival Black Muslims inside a Washington, D.C., home a day earlier. They then entered John and Al’s Sporting Goods store in Williamsburg on Jan. 19, 1973, looking to rob the place of more guns. Unexpectedly, a 47-hour police siege of the shop occured as the robbers took 14 hostages inside.
“It was a serious case, the loss of an innocent officer’s life," said Raheem. “I was devastated when we were still in the store. I grieve and I will continue to grieve for this man [Gilroy]. It was a bad decision.”
All four suspects were convicted in 1974 and sentenced to 25-years-to-life, making them eligible for parole before the turn of the century.
Abdullah was known as a mentor to younger men in the prison, a Muslim religious leader who painted and tutored inmates in math.
“He became a new person,” said Abdullah’s older brother, Willie Richardson. “His whole outlook of life changed. He was talking about starting a business to give back to the community and then this happened.”
“P.O. Stephen Gilroy gave his life trying to rescue a dozen New Yorkers being held hostage by a terrorist criminal gang," said Patrick Lynch said. “His sacrifice can never be erased, and neither can his killers’ crime. No cop-killer should be allowed to live to taste freedom.”
An organization, ‘Release Aging People in Prison’ executive director Jose Saldana, said that the PBA should not have such an influential role in whether people are granted release and that the state should pass the “Elder Parole” law that would allow anyone in prison for 15 years over the age of 55 to immediately go before the parole board.
“The police got exactly what they always advocate for in this case: a needless and violent death of a Black man behind prison walls,” Saldana said.