In July 1974, Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Walter Ilyankoff was executed in the parking lot of a Red Lobster during a botched armed robbery attempt.
The four men who committed the robbery were all convicted of first-degree murder. The three still alive are up for parole in August -- and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department will have none of it.
Spokesman Det. Travis Mandell sent out the most suspenseful narrative news release I've ever seen last week with the headline "COP KILLERS PAROLE HEARING." But the three men up for parole didn't actually kill anyone.
The shooter was 20-year-old Alvin Ford, who planned with the others to rob the Fort Lauderdale seafood restaurant. But things went wrong, and Ford was stranded at the restaurant, left behind by his accomplices. Feeling cornered and seeing Ilyankoff approaching, he shot the officer twice in the torso, took the keys to Ilyankoff's cruiser, and shot him again, in the head.
Ford was sentenced to death but died of respiratory complications in 1991; the three other men -- Henry Robinson, George Decosta, and Alvin Lewis -- received life in prison and are up for parole every five years. Every five years, Fort Lauderdale Police come out against it.
But not only did Robinson, Decosta, and Lewis not kill Ilyankoff but they weren't even there when the murder happened. They got spooked and bailed on the robbery before Ilyankoff showed up. Ford killed him as a getaway ploy when the others ditched him.
Mandell -- and the courts -- say it doesn't matter.
"As a result of their actions, a police officer was killed," Mandell said. "They may not have been the triggermen, but they were just as much a part of it as Alvin Ford was."
He argument was essentially that if you go somewhere with guns in the middle of the day, it's not unreasonable to expect authorities to show up and for something awful to go down. So when "they sat around planning an armed robbery," they accepted that those arms might be used against someone and that they would all be found liable.
"Our stance is that an officer was murdered, and these other individuals either pled to life in exchange for not getting the death penalty or were convicted and sentenced to life," he told the Pulp. "We believe that 'life' means life, and we will stand behind our fallen officer as well as his family."
The release goes moment by moment through the events that led up to Ilyankoff's execution and concludes with "If you want your voice to be heard by the Parole Committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
with a short statement expressing feelings on whether the three men should be paroled or not. We are hoping to receive all sentiments by May 1st, 2012," as if anyone is going to read three horrifying pages about the death of a young father and then decide that hey, these guys might not be so bad. It's included below because there's no way to paraphrase this thing.
Mandell said today that they've received more than 150 emails to the account since the call went out; the department will be presenting them to the parole board.
"When you undertake this job, the things you see and the things you have to do to protect other people and to protect yourself create a bond between yourself and other law enforcement officers," he said. "Five years from now, 20 years from now, a hundred years from now, we will remember Officer Ilyankoff's sacrifice."