In January 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, faced the unthinkable: the line of duty deaths of two police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call in Harlem.
In a gut-wrenching display of vulnerability, he compared the deaths to the 1987 line-of-duty loss of his dear friend, Officer Robert Venable, whose tragic death haunts him today.
“I understand the pain,” Mr. Adams said. “I carry around a picture of Robert Venable, my close friend, that was shot several years ago during my early days of police, and I always have Robert’s picture. The pain never dissipates.”
About a week later, Adams posed for a photo op in his office, proudly displaying the beaten and well-loved wallet-sized black and white photo of his friend. Adams gazes at viewers with a saddened enigmatic expression, grief written in his eyes, lips pressed together with overwhelming emotion.
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His story gained traction and w in interviews and at a Police Academy ceremony in June of 2022, where he again pulled the crumpled picture of his dear friend from his wallet and sadly showed it to the audience.
He began his Academy address with the anecdote, saying, “Thank you, commissioner. And as I heard the commissioner speak, reached into my pocket and I pulled out this photo. This photo is Robert Venable. He was one of my closest friends when I was a transit police officer.”
He went on to tell the tale of how Venable crossed his mind during another incident a few weeks prior to the ceremony. “And I thought about Robert also tonight, a few weeks ago when Patty Lynch and I were in the Bronx, when Officer Vargas was shot in the arm. When we looked at the video, the assailant who was out with a repeated history of violence, he shot at Officer Vargas and Officer Vargas did not run away.”
The obvious question that comes to mind is why an “assailant who was out with a repeated history of violence” was freely running the streets of New York in Adams’ soft-on-crime city.
The worn photo of fallen police officer Robert Venable represents a sad story about loss and heroism. It stands for love, life, and the deep connection between friends, even after death.
And it’s 100% fake.
The picture in question is that of Venable, and Adams did have a friendship with the fallen hero. But that’s where the truth ends, and a humiliating deception begins.
The photo Adams whips from his pocket has not spent decades in his wallet. It was a masterpiece in forgery, created by mayoral employees after Adams claimed he carried it around, and only for the purpose of the New York Times interview and photo op.
An anonymous source revealed that the much beloved picture of Venable was created using a picture found on Google. The picture, printed out in black and white, was weathered to look as if it had been in a wallet for decades. Employees used several techniques to achieve the worn look, including spilling coffee on the picture.
The ruse was known throughout City Hall, including two aides who confessed they knew the picture was a fake.
Mayoral Spokesman Fabien Levy did not deny the farce in so many words. His word wizardry only indicated that Adams had shown “a” picture to the Times and during the ceremony. He did claim that Adams and Venable were close friends.
Venable’s daughter begs to differ. She was 8 years old when her father died and doesn’t recall ever meeting Adams. In an interview, Januari (now 44) said she was surprised to learn that the mayor had a picture of her father.
However, Venable’s niece, Meredith Benson, recalled visits to her grandparent’s home following her uncle’s death but hadn’t seen Adams in 30 years.
It’s not the first time Adams has falsified documents or displayed Biden-esque stretches of the truth. In 2021, Adams produced a fake transfer of property in Brooklyn dated 2007. When caught out in the lie, a spokesman claimed the transfer was “still underway” 14 years later.
Adams claimed he was vegan and eventually admitted he ate fish. He lied about intimidating a neighbor in a 2019 commencement address.
Venable’s daughter is grateful that her father lives on in memory, even if the photo was a fake. “All I can say is that as far as being in his wallet or not, the fact that people still think of my dad all these years later — whatever the meaning behind it — it makes me thankful that he’s not being forgotten.”