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Friday, January 13, 2012

[NYPD] New York Police Officer Kimberly Cassas - "She died of domestic violence - period"

16 Years ago today, January 13th 1996, Brooklyn Police Officer Kimberly Cassas, was fatally shot and wounded in the midst of an argument with her estranged husband John Rivera. Prosecutors said Rivera shot her and put the gun in Kim's hand to make it look like suicide. He was convicted of murder. Recently, on appeal, the murder conviction has been thrown out. Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes said his office is "reviewing the decision and considering our options."

...Kim Cassas died of a gunshot wound to her head at about 1 a.m. on January 14, surrounded by her real family and her cop family from the 68th. The medical examiner's report shows that Cassas's mouth and nose were bruised from being punched. Cassas's fellow officers placed a big stuffed heart on her chest, held her hand, and watched her die. Said Officer Patti Testaverde, "She died of domestic violence - period"...

...Detective Stephanie Rich, head of the Policewomen's Endowment Association, said the incident highlighted the department's inability to cope with domestic violence against female officers. "Whether it was suicide or something else, this was definitely a case of domestic violence," she said. "It's a serious problem, and it needs immediate attention"...

...Words cannot describe how I felt when I read that the so-called person who killed my friend Kim Cassas would be released on a technicality ("Conviction KOd in '96 slay of his NYPD wife," Aug. 10). The judge felt there was not enough evidence to prove the defendant showed depraved indifference to human life. What do you call holding a gun to someone's head and pulling the trigger?...


New York Times
January 14, 1996
[Excerpts] An off-duty police officer died last night in the Bronx of a gunshot wound to the head, which the police said appeared to be suicide. The shooting occurred at 6:40 P.M. inside a private residence on City Island... The police did not immediately release the officer's name... In the last two years, the Police Department has instituted a number of measures, including offering psychological counseling, to combat suicide among police officers. In 1994, 11 officers committed suicide, the most ever in the city

New York Times
By David Kocieniewski
January 16, 1996
[Excerpts] Detectives used metal detectors and police dogs yesterday to search for clues in the shooting death of an off-duty police officer in Brooklyn on Saturday night and said they still had not determined whether the death was a suicide, a homicide or an accident. The officer, Kimberly Rivera, 28, was shot once in the head about 10 P.M. Saturday outside the Bensonhurst home of her estranged husband, John. The couple's 8-month-old son, Michael John, was buckled in a car seat a few feet from the shooting... Mr. Rivera, 35, told the police his wife shot herself, after screaming, "I can't take it anymore," said detectives, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Neighbors told the police that they saw a struggle between the Riveras... Mr. Rivera had been arrested last September and charged with beating Officer Rivera and stealing her gun... The charges were reduced to misdemeanors, and a court hearing was pending. Ms. Rivera had obtained an order of protection that expired on Friday... Black bunting was draped over the entrance to the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge,... Detective Stephanie Rich, head of the Policewomen's Endowment Association, said the incident highlighted the department's inability to cope with domestic violence against female officers. "Whether it was suicide or something else, this was definitely a case of domestic violence," she said. "It's a serious problem, and it needs immediate attention."

New York Daily News
By Tara George, Alice Mcquillan, Jane Furse
Tuesday, January 16 1996
[Excerpts] Police Commissioner William Bratton says that Officer Kimberly Rivera's estranged husband is not cooperating with investigators... "We have a lot of witnesses to talk to. The husband in this matter has retained the services of a lawyer and is no longer talking to us, so that is a very active investigation at this time"... Officer Rivera, 28, whom grief-stricken fellow officers have said would never have taken her own life, was shot in the head Saturday night outside her husband's Bath Beach, Brooklyn, apartment... John Rivera, 36, told officers a 9-mm. handgun went off during a struggle when he tried to stop his wife from firing the weapon into her temple. The couple had separated shortly after the birth of their son. On Sunday, cops got a warrant to search John Rivera's apartment, but [John Rivera's attorney, Peter] Antioco refused to allow investigators to test his client's clothes for gunpowder residue, saying the test would "serve no purpose" because Rivera had already said he was near his wife when the gun fired. A neighbor also told police he heard a man pleading, "Don't do it! Don't do it!... John Rivera, a construction worker, had been ordered by the courts to stay away from his wife. He also had been charged earlier with stealing the gun that fired the fatal shot, but those charges were later reduced. Meanwhile, grieving officers paid their respects to their slain colleague's family at her Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, home, where she lived with her mother and sister. At the 68th Precinct, former co-workers seemed numbed by shock and grief at the death. "It's never like this," said Sgt. Scott Nicholls, about the sadness that filled the stationhouse. "You've heard of the cop mentality? We only have each other," said Nicholls, who served in the same unit with Rivera. "She was the only woman in the unit, but she was one of the guys. She took ribbings, she took jokes. When we had the snowstorm, she was out there shoveling more than the guys"...

New York Daily News
Friday, January 19th 1996
[Excerpts] Hundreds of uniformed police officers packed a Brooklyn church yesterday to bid a solemn farewell to Officer Kimberly Rivera... Some spit at John Rivera, who is under investigation in his wife's death and who sat quietly apart from the other mourners, wearing sunglasses. Many of the officers from the slain cop's precinct wept as pallbearers carried the flagged-draped coffin into St. Mary Mother of Jesus church. "If you knew Kim, you knew she loved life," said the Rev. James Collins. "She had a big heart, which makes her violent death harder to understand." The officer's mother, Marlene Cassas, and sister Stephanie clung to each other for support as Collins talked of Rivera's love of animals and her dedication to her job, her family and her 8-month-old son, Michael. Officer Howard Carswell, a close friend, choked back tears as he read a speech he penned the day after Officer Rivera died. "On Jan 13, 1996, during a cold winter's night, New York City lost one of its Finest," he said. "The angels called for her much sooner than was planned" Rivera, 28, was shot in the head outside her husband's Bath Beach, Brooklyn, apartment last Saturday... Family members did not speak to John Rivera during yesterday's ceremony, and he left quickly when it was over.

Marlene Cassas
January 23rd 1996
[Excerpts] Brooklyn cop Kimberly Rivera died with her own 9-mm. gun in her hand, her estranged husband's attorney charged yesterday. "She committed suicide," Peter Antioco told Criminal Court Judge Joseph Bruno at a hearing for John Rivera... He has not been charged in her death, and he has insisted that she killed herself. But Police Commissioner William Bratton complained last week that Rivera was uncooperative with investigators and police sources say they remain troubled by several aspects of the case... The misdemeanor charges he faced yesterday include criminal weapons possession, possession of a forged instrument, criminal contempt, menacing and petty larceny, dating back to a complaint his wife made last year. But his lawyer maintained the gun used in the shooting had never left Kimberly Rivera's possession. Antioco told Bruno that he had been told by police after the shooting "that the weapon was recovered in her hand." Antioco also said photographs of Kimberly Rivera's body show her holding the weapon.

New York Times
By Garry Pierre-Pierre
February 4, 1996
[Excerpts] The New York City Medical Examiner's office ruled yesterday that the shooting death last month of an off-duty police officer [Kimberly Rivera,] was a homicide... Her death had baffled detectives, who had not determined whether the death was a suicide, a homicide or an accident... Yesterday, the police would not say whether Mr. Rivera was a suspect... Officer Rivera joined the police force on June 30, 1990, and was assigned to the 68th Precinct. Neighbors said that Mr. Rivera, a former city bus driver, had been honored by the city in 1992 for rescuing 10 people from a burning building on his route in Bensonhurst.

New York Times
Published: February 29, 1996
[Excerpts] Saying in court that he wanted to commit suicide, a Brooklyn man was charged yesterday with murdering his estranged wife, a police officer, in a case in which he had repeatedly insisted she had shot herself as he tried to stop her... District Attorney Charles J. Hynes of Brooklyn said the location of the wound -- not in the temple but above and behind the ear helped determine that "the fatal wound was not consistent" with Mr. Rivera's account that his 28-year-old wife shot herself. Mr. Rivera, 36, was arrested Tuesday night on the second-degree murder charges. He has been ordered held without bail.

New York Times
By Austin Evans Fenner, Al Baker, Don Gentile
February 29th 1996
[Excerpts] Brooklyn Police Officer Kimberly Rivera was murdered in cold blood by her estranged husband, who tried to make the death look like a suicide, prosecutors charged yesterday. "The evidence excludes that the wound was self-inflicted," said District Attorney Charles Hynes after the arraignment of John Rivera... "We say he put the gun in the victim's hand," said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Taub. "The evidence will show he shot and killed his wife and tried to make it look like suicide." Hynes noted that the fatal wound, 2 inches above and behind the right ear, "is inconsistent with suicide." Sources added that gunpowder residue found on the officer's knuckle indicated she was trying to deflect the gun... Rivera told police his wife shouted, "I can't take it anymore" and used a 9-mm. Beretta to end her life falling to the ground with the gun still in her hand. The baby was strapped in a car seat inside the vehicle at the time. Rivera told police he tried to stop his wife. But investigators were suspicious... In September he was charged with menacing, criminal harassment and stealing the gun that eventually took her life. Those charges are still pending. Rivera, arrested Tuesday night, was held without bail and placed on a suicide watch. His lawyer, Peter Antioco, called the case politically motivated. Antioco said the officer had emotional problems over "an abortion, a miscarriage and a lesbian relationship." He would not elaborate.

[I left those accusations in just to show what happens.]

New York Daily News
By Bill Farrell
June 04, 1996
[Excerpts] A triangular park on 86th St., near the Dyker Beach Golf Course in Bay Ridge, is slated to be named for a local police officer who was slain allegedly by her ex-husband during a domestic dispute. According to Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, it will be the first city park named for a police officer not killed in the line of duty, and the first park named for a victim of domestic violence. The naming of the park for Officer Kimberly Rivera has been spearheaded by her fellow officers at the 68th Precinct... "Kim was a fixture at the park," said Police Officer Mike Emitt, one of the organizers of the dedication effort. "Even when off duty she would walk her dogs there. This is fitting tribute," he said...

The Village Voice
Linda Stasi
19 Nov 1996
[Excerpts] ...[Kimberly] Cassas died without an NYPD funeral. Instead, her peers from the force paid for her funeral themselves. The mayor, who hasn't missed a cop funeral since Jesus was a baby, skipped it. [Police Commissioner William[ Bratton skipped, too. Kimberly Cassas Rivera, a dedicated cop and mother, was buried in a cloud of shame... Officer Kimberly Cassas believed everything that handsome John Rivera said at first. Friends say she believed him when be said he scabbed for the Green Bay Packers... She believed him when he said he was an ex-NYPD officer. After all, he had the shield, he had the uniform... She believed him, too, when he told her that he was from a family of 11 brothers and sisters and that his mom had been killed in a carjacking... She eloped with him. But on their honeymoon, her cop instincts took over. She felt that something was wrong with the guy. After their honeymoon, she moved right back home with her mother and sister... Her friends say the couple never lived together. By the time she knew she'd made a mistake by marrying him, she was pregnant, and wanted out of the marriage. But it wasn't until much later that Kimberly discovered that she'd married a man who didn't exist. Friends of the couple said Rivera went so far as to party with "fellow officers" while in full uniform at the Washington, D.C., debacle last year. They say he showed up at a Memorial Day event decked out again like the cop he wasn't. "Cops of 15 years believed him" said Officer Margo McKenzie. "He had the lingo down pat" He'd shared stories with cops of collars and heroic feats"... [Her pal, Officer Maryrose Demetrio:] "Monday nights we'd all go bowling, I remember she was seven months pregnant-he'd show up-and be so annoying. He'd be all over her, `My Kimmy, my Kimmy.' She'd deal with him very kindly; she felt bad for him. That's the way she was" After the baby was born, things became unbearable. Kim's gun was stolen out of her home. She told her friends that Rivera admitted that he had it, and that he'd threatened to use it on her. She reported the gun missing, and named him as the thief In late August, Cassas filed divorce papers; Rivera was served on September 2, 1995. Six days later, she went to Dyker Park with the baby. According to court papers filed by Cassas, Rivera showed up and pushed her to the ground with the baby in her arms. Cops from the 62nd Precinct were called. Rivera told them he was a cop, and showed them his ID. The responding officers dismissed this as a domestic dispute between two cops. Nonetheless, Kimberly filed charges-and Rivera spent three days in jail. He was charged with five counts, including grand larceny for allegedly stealing her gun and violating an order of protection. In a search of Rivera's apartment, police found equipment for making official badges. Rivera was charged with forgery. But it wasn't until Cassas filed the criminal charges that any background check was done on "ex-police officer" John Rivera. And that's when-nearly two years after Rivera and Cassas met - both the NYPD and Kimberly Cassas discovered that John Rivera had never been a cop. Nothing he'd told her, it seemed, was true... Rivera was a hero alright, but a hero bus driver... A confidential source says Cassas later discovered that Rivera had been caught with an altered TA identification badge-one that made him look like a TA cop... According to her estranged husband, Cassas killed herself because she was depressed over their impending divorce, saying that her gun went off while he was trying to wrest it from her hand. Kim Cassas died of a gunshot wound to her head at about 1 a.m. on January 14, surrounded by her real family and her cop family from the 68th. The medical examiner's report shows that Cassas's mouth and nose were bruised from being punched. Cassas's fellow officers placed a big stuffed heart on her chest, held her hand, and watched her die. Said Officer Patti Testaverde, "She died of domestic violence-period"... [John] Rivera's then-defense attorney, Peter Antioco, blasted the dead policewoman, saying the case was politically motivated and "there are reports that she had one abortion, one miscarriage, she was using steroids, and she may have been have been having a lesbian relationship." "How does a dead woman defend these charges?" asked Maryrose Demetrio. Shortly after taking on the case, Antioco dismissed himself as Rivera's attorney, saying he was too close to the defendant...

New York Times
July 16, 1997
[Excerpts] An unemployed city bus driver charged with fatally shooting his estranged wife, a police officer, in January was convicted yesterday by a Brooklyn jury. The defendant, John Rivera, 37, was convicted of second-degree murder with depraved indifference for human life in the shooting of Officer Kimberly Rivera, 28, during an argument outside his apartment in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. Four of the victim's former patrol partners, who had come every day to the four-and-a-half-week trial, sat in court with her family as the sentence was read... In convicting him, the jury of nine women and three men concluded that while he might not have done so intentionally, it was Mr. Rivera who pulled the trigger.

New York Daily News
July 16, 1997
A Brooklyn jury yesterday convicted a Bath Beach man of murdering his city police officer wife, rejecting his claim that she committed suicide. "I'll be back down on appeal," John Rivera shouted amid obscenities. Jurors found Rivera fired an illegal 9-mm. Beretta pistol into Kimberly Rivera's head at point-blank range on Jan. 13, 1996, then put the gun in her hand and told cops, "That's my wife, she shot herself." But prosecutors Ken Taub and Kyle Reeves said a single soot mark found on Kimberly Rivera's thumb showed she was deflecting the pistol, not firing it. A five-year police veteran, Kimberly Rivera, 28, filed for divorce four months before the slaying outside her husband's apartment. She also had an order of protection directing him to stay away except during supervised visits with their son, Michael, now 2. Deliberations before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Hall took 15 hours over three days. One juror was hospitalized for high blood pressure. Yesterday, more than 20 of Kimberly Rivera's friends and relatives said the wait had been excruciating as they cried and hugged each other tightly after the verdict. "I'm so happy it's over. They did the right thing," said Kimberly Rivera's sister, Stephanie Cassas, with tears streaming down her cheeks. "I can't wait to go home and hug Michael," said her mother, Marlene Cassas. Defense attorney Lynn Stewart had argued that two witnesses saw the gun in the victim's hand and heard her say, "I'm gonna do it this time."

New York Times
Sep 20, 1997
[Excerpts] After spitting at his victim's police colleagues, a Brooklyn man was sentenced yesterday to 23 years to life for fatally shooting his estranged wife, a New York City police officer. The man, John Rivera, 38, was sentenced in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in a courtroom packed with relatives and colleagues of the victim, Kimberly Rivera. She was off duty when she was shot... Seeing the many police officers in the gallery yesterday as he entered the courtroom, Mr. Rivera said, "All this for me?" and spat toward the spectators. Later, as he was led away after being sentenced, the audience applauded loudly.

Washington Post
By Peter Slevin
Feb. 23, 1998
[Excerpts] The D.C. financial control board is working intensely to hire a highly respected New York City pathologist -- a specialist in the way children die -- to rebuild the District's woeful medical examiner's office. Jonathan L. Arden, who runs the Brooklyn morgue and serves as top deputy to New York City's chief medical examiner, would become the city's highest-paid employee if he accepted the job... In another case, Arden concluded last year that off-duty New York police officer Kimberly Rivera could not have committed suicide, although she was found in a pool of blood, gripping the pistol that fired the fatal bullets. "This is not a self-inflicted gunshot," Arden testified. "When one shoots oneself, one cannot continue to hold the gun in one's hand." A jury convicted John Rivera, her husband, of murder. He is serving 23 years to life.

Name : Cassas, Kim 
[Excerpts] Officers in the 68th Pct received word that Kim Cassas had allegedly killed herself off duty, in front of her estranged husband's house with her newborn baby a few feet away. Over 1,000 police officers and civilians that knew her, off duty paid their respects at her funeral. She was not entitled to the Inspectors Funeral her friends felt she deserved due to the circumstances surrounding her death. Those that knew her, knew that she would never take her own life. She was too full of life and loved life, especially with her new born baby boy... After many months of painstaking investigation Kim's estranged husband was arrested, tried and convicted of her murder. One of her fellow officers would like everyone to know that though she did not die LOD, there is a another true "Angel" out there that deserves our respect and admiration for being one of the Finest of the Finest. There is a walkway in Dyker Park Golf Course named after Officer Cassas [Kimberly Cassas Walk Dyker Beach Park, 86th St. and 10th Ave., Brooklyn]. For the last eight years the 68th Pct has been running the Kim Cassas Memorial Golf Day to raise money for the care of her son. [Full article here]

New York Post
By Bruce Golding
August 10, 2011
[Excerpts] A federal appeals court yesterday ordered the release of a Brooklyn man imprisoned for the 1996 slaying of his police-officer wife during a custody fight... The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said a judge should have previously overturned John Rivera's conviction for "depraved indifference" murder in the fatal shooting of Kimberly Rivera. The unanimous decision noted that jurors had acquitted Rivera of "intentional murder." Two state appellate-court decrees since the verdict have changed the law so that the "point-blank shooting" of Kimberly Rivera "could not support a depraved-indifference murder conviction," Judge Joseph McLaughlin wrote. Those decisions were both handed down before Rivera's conviction "became final" following denial of his last state appeal in 2004, McLaughlin said...

New York Daily News
By Scott Shifrel, Kerry Wills And Larry Mcshane
August 9 2011, 5:13 PM
[Excerpts] ...The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals also ordered a lower court to spring the longtime inmate, although the timetable for his release was unclear. The ruling infuriated the family of NYPD scooter cop Kimberly Rivera... "We're very upset, obviously," said her 40-year-old sister, Stephanie Cassas. "This shouldn't be happening. He's guilty, so he shouldn't be getting out in the first place. "I love my sister," the Brooklyn woman said through tears. "I miss her so much." Rivera, now 52, spewed obscenities and vowed to beat the case after his July 1997 conviction. "I'll be back down on appeal!" he shouted after the verdict was read. He taunted and spat at the 70 cops who turned out two months later to watch him receive a jail term of 23 years to life. Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes said his office was "reviewing the decision and considering our options."...

New York Daily News
Letters To The Editor
Sunday, August 14, 2011
[Excerpt] Unspeakable
Brooklyn: Words cannot describe how I felt when I read that the so-called person who killed my friend Kim Cassas would be released on a technicality ("Conviction KOd in '96 slay of his NYPD wife," Aug. 10). The judge felt there was not enough evidence to prove the defendant showed depraved indifference to human life. What do you call holding a gun to someone's head and pulling the trigger?... [LINK]

...She always put cocoa butter on, so of course I didn't let a day go by when I didn't ask her if she rubbed chocolate bars under her arms, my sister who was no better always told her that she had something in her ear knowing very well that it was this little flower tatoo that kim had in her ear. She would just laugh at us, and that's what we wanted cause it was all in fun.I never saw her mad, raise her voice or be petty about anything. She took everything in stride. She always had that smile on her face and was ready to help you if you needed it. I really am sorry that she is gone, she is missed alot by the many people...

...I just want every one to know that kim was a very special person to all of us at the 68 who had the sincere pleasure of working with her she was a beautiful person and there is no way that she would ever take her life...

...When I received that phone call on the evening of January 13th from another officer from the 68th Pct, I just knew that it wasn't good news. He told me that Kim was shot, I was just devastated and my immediate response was,cwho did it, John. There was never a doubt. She was such a vibrant girl and loved her son Michael too much to ever take her own life. I was the PAA in the CPU Office and Kim was assigned there. She was always there whenever I needed her to do anything within the confines of the 68 Pct. Kim was always a ray of sunshine. She will always be in my heart and I will always miss her...

...I have a picture of her with her son sitting on my mantle, so I see her and think of her every single day. She was one of the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for. I love her and miss her smiling face...

...I smile thinking of the many times we worked on patrol and laughed so hard together. Her eyes would tear and there would be mascarra all over the place. The only positive thing to come of this tradgedy is I still get to sense part of her when I see her Mom, Sister and Son. They are all wonderful people and Kim- like. Her son is a very happy boy and is a constant reminder of Kims innocence and goodness. Kimberly, you are so missed... 

...Thank You for all the support you've given Kim's son Michael over these past 15 years if you've met him you would know he has my sister's spirit all the way through. Our family is forever grateful and thankful to her friends, her second family from the 68pct. Thank You for recognizing my sis Kimberly as an "NYPD angel"...

...To the best friend I ever had. I still remember the first day I met you when you walked into Bishop Kearney HS with your perfect eyelashes and pink lip gloss. It was a horrible night when Mike had to tell me you were gone. I couldn't believe I wasted so much time and then you were gone. I never met another friend that I know truly loved me like I know you did. Although I am crying like a baby right now I can still laugh outloud anytime I think of our days driving your mothers rabbit. Well we both have sons named Michael the same age and when I saw your son when he was little he melted my heart at just the site of him. Kim, I have told you in my prayers but I want the world to know that I named one of my daughters after you and she is as beautiful and mischevious and tough as you ever where. When I yell out her name (and God knows how many times I do) I sometimes feel like I am calling to you. I hope Mom, Steph and Michael are doing well. NYPD never had better. I love you and miss you and Kimberly Patricia Masullo is honored to have you as her guardian angel. God help the person that ever crosses her... I have seen you protect anything from a stray cat or dog to your closest friends. Until we laugh together again... 
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety lethal fatality fatalities murder new york state politics alleged said suicide]


  1. I have very large copies of the procession photo and photo of Kim with dogs. If anyone wants them just email me.

  2. I don't know who you are, but I am SO glad you posted this! Kim was one of my dearest and closest friends - we were supposed to get together the day she was killed as a matter of fact. I came across this site while looking for her sister Stephanie on FB; I did a google search and found your blog. I had no idea Rivera might get released - he's *not* out yet, is he? God forbid. Please keep the news coming - I miss Kim so much. Julia

  3. Some days I don't know who I am either. I am sorry you lost Kim this way, and grateful that this post would be approved of by one of her close friends.

    Wishing the madness woud stop.


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