A Tree Grows in Harlem: Life, Death and the NYPD’s Unhappily Ever After

If a black policeman falls in Harlem, does his body make a sound?

“Mr. Nathan, my name is Essie Jones,” the email to me began, “I’m Waverly Jones’s daughter. I’m writing to you about my father’s tree.”

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On May 21, 1971, two young patrolmen had just answered a call for help at the Colonial Park Apartments in Harlem. It was a distress call — a domestic. They were in the same…