Family still hurting amid NYPD detective's death 33 years after botched robbery

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, May 5, 2023
Family still in pain after NYPD detective dies 33 years after shooting
CeFaan Kim has more from the family of NYPD Detective Troy Patterson who was shot 33 years ago.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An NYPD detective succumbed to his injuries over the weekend 33 years after he was shot in the head -- and his family is still hurting.

Detective Troy Patterson died on Saturday, 33 years after he was shot by three criminals trying to rob him.

Patterson spent the last three decades in a vegetative state - and never fully woke up after the shooting.

The 27-year-old was shot once in the head on January 16, 1990, while he was off duty, washing his car near his apartment.

Now, more than three decades later, his family still feels the pain of losing him and says it feels like he was shot yesterday.

"He reacted on our voice, even my grandmother's voice, he knew that we were there," his son, Troy Patterson, Jr. said.

He said his father lived in a vegetative state with a limited ability to communicate -- but he was able to react to his family's voices and sometimes he smiled, chuckled, or even laughed.

He always knew they were there.

The detective's son was 5 years old when it happened.

"That was tough, you know, 5 years old, a little kid, a baby," Patterson said. "You know seeing your dad laid up in the hospital, tubes, stomach, nose, you know everywhere, mouth. It was tough but with the family there guiding him and the NYPD, we got through it."

Patterson Jr. still remembers his father taking him to dinners or to the toy store in his Nissan Maxima. As the years passed, he would tell his father about growing up about his daughters.

His youngest daughter would sit on his father's lap and whisper into his ear: granddad you're a hero.

"That's tough, you know. just wanted him to have a relationship with my daughters, any son would want that," Patterson said.

It was 1990 when detective Patterson was washing his car near his home in Brooklyn, and then shot in a botched robbery -- over $20.

He had taken countless guns off the streets, preventing countless senseless crimes. But he could not prevent the one that took the life he imagined, one where he could hold his son.

One of the suspects convicted in his shooting was released in 2000.

The president of the Detectives Endowment Association visited Detective Patterson several times.

"He was confined to a wheelchair and confined to a bed, he was never patrolled from his wheelchair, he was confined for 33 years due to the acts of these individuals," DEA President Paul Digiacomo said.

Detective Patterson's cause of death is still being determined. The Brooklyn district attorney says the case is under review.

Looking back at the investigation

The Vault: Watch original Eyewitness News coverage of the investigation into the shooting of Det. Troy Patterson in January 1990.

Detectives reviewed Patterson's arrests around the time of the shooting, and even spoke to former girlfriends, to find a lead or a motive as to why someone would shoot the officer.

Three suspects, two teens and an adult, were eventually arrested after an intense manhunt. Officials said the group ambushed Patterson in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Then-Police Commissioner Lee Brown announced that three men, Tracy Clark, 15, Vincent Robbins, 20, and Darren Crawford, 17, were charged with attempted robbery.

Officials believed the suspects panicked during the altercation and Clark pulled the trigger.

Residents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community believed the suspects were childhood friends from broken homes. The suspects were also known for their love of basketball.

It was that love for basketball that allegedly started the shooting. Police reported that the suspects gunned Patterson down for $20, so the teens could play in a local basketball tournament.

"They seemed to be very good kids, I was more of like a big father to them," the suspects' coach, Chico Hernandez, said in an interview in 1990.

In 1990, police described Patterson as a dedicated six-year NYPD veteran, who made many drug and gun arrests on the streets of Brooklyn.

"He knew his surroundings. He could spot a criminal a mile away," one officer said during an Eyewitness News interview around the time of the shooting.

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