AOC’s Republican challenger backs death penalty for police murders

A GOP candidate challenging New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is running on implementing the death penalty for anyone who takes the life of a law enforcement officer.

Desi Cuellar, running in the 14th Congressional District to represent Queens and parts of the Bronx, proposed such penalties after the deaths of two New York City police officers were shot this week.

“The men and women in blue are being gunned down in the streets and not a thing is being done about it,” Mr. Cuellar said in a Twitter video. “I promise you, once I’m elected into Congress, I will federally mandate the death penalty for cop killers because we cannot continue to let these animals terrorize our communities and gun down our first responders without holding them accountable.”

Mr. Cuellar, 35, is the descendant of Cuban immigrants who fled the country in 1959 following the communist revolution by Fidel Castro. The candidate is a former bartender, like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and a New York Army National Guardsman.

Mr. Cuellar has attacked his opponent over the “Defund the Police” movement, which she and other leftist lawmakers have advocated.

“AOC wants to ‘abolish our carceral system,’” Mr. Cuellar tweeted in July. “So, she wants to abolish jails. So, we’ve got ‘defund the police’ and no more jails. That sounds GREAT if you’re a criminal but for the rest of us it sounds like a complete disaster. The longer she stays in office the worse she gets.”

In an interview with ABC News last year, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez defended her push to reduce police budgets to spend more on social services, a move that gained momentum in 2020 with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody.

“The New York City police department has a $6 billion a year budget,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “That is more than we spend on youth, housing, health care, and homelessness combined in New York City. … Not enough resources are being put into the very kinds of social programs that prevent crime and social discord in the first place.”

Mr. Cuellar’s latest proposal follows the killing of NYPD officers Jason Rivera, 22, and Wilbert Mora, 27, who were fatally shot responding to a domestic dispute call at a Harlem apartment. Officials said 47-year-old Lashawn J. McNeil swung open a bedroom door and opened fire at the officers.

Mr. Rivera died of his injuries on Friday. Mr. Mora died on Sunday, where he was taken off life support after being in critical condition at a local hospital.

Mr. McNeil died on Monday from injuries he sustained by being shot by a rookie officer who was shadowing Mr. Rivera and Mr. Mora the night of the call.

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