Timeline of a Tragedy: How the 'Palm Sunday Massacre' Unfolded

Christopher Thomas was responsible for one of the largest mass shootings in New York City’s history.

On Palm Sunday 1984, a gunman entered a home in the East New York section of Brooklyn and opened fire, killing eight children and two women, one of whom was pregnant. 

It was the largest mass shooting in New York City at the time.

Several weeks after the shooting — dubbed the "Palm Sunday Massacre" — cops arrested Christopher Thomas. He was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison in 1985. 

Earlier this year, Thomas was quietly released from prison after serving 33 years.

InsideEdition.com is taking a look back at how the events of that tragic day unfolded and what has taken place in the years since. 


April 15

As torrential rain fell in Brooklyn, a gunman using a .22 caliber gun and .38 caliber pistol walked into the first-floor home on Liberty Avenue and opened fire on the occupants at about 5:30 p.m. 

The victims were identified as Virginia Lopez, 24, and her two sons, Juan, 4, and Eddie, 7; Lopez' pregnant cousin, Carmen Perez, 20, and her two children, Alberto, 5, and Noel, 3; Perez' sister, Migdilia Perez, 14, and her friend, Maria, 10; Betsy Bermudez, 14, and her sister, Marilyn, 10.

A 13-month-old infant named Christina, the daughter of Carmen Perez, survived.

Just before 7:30 p.m., cops were called after homeowner Enrique Bermudez, the husband of Virginia Lopez, arrived on his property to find carnage. 

Police rushed to the home, where they found the heartbreaking scene. 

April 16

Local papers splash the news of the massacre across their front pages, including an image of Officer Joanne Jaffe holding the surviving baby in her arms. The poignant image became synonymous with the events of the day before. 

The detectives of the 75th precinct assembled a task force, led by Lt. Herbert Hohmann, to hunt for the killer. It would be the largest task force assembled by the NYPD since the "Son of Sam" killings of 1976-1977. It was comprised of 75 cops from across the city. 

Police called it the worst mass shooting in New York City history. 


A break in the case occurred as police received tips from multiple sources, including Bermudez, that Christopher Thomas of the Bronx was the man they were looking for.

May 22

Police search the Bronx home where Thomas was living. It was owned by his mother and mother-in-law, and had sustained significant fire damage weeks before the "Palm Sunday Massacre." While it was searched, cops found a .22 caliber shell casing that matched those plucked from the East New York shooting. 

June 9

Thomas is in a Bronx jail for an unrelated charge, the alleged sodomizing and attempted rape of his own mother, according to reports. 

June 19

Thomas is arrested and charged with 10 counts of murder and two counts of gun possession after witnesses told police they saw Thomas loitering outside the Brooklyn home on Palm Sunday before the shooting and picked him out of a line-up. 

June 21

Thomas pleads not guilty to the charges in Brooklyn Criminal Court. He was held without bail. 


July 8

Thomas' trial begins as prosecutors claimed "jealousy and greed'' drove him to kill. It was argued that Thomas had a falling out with Enrique Bermudez over drug deals. In addition, authorities said Thomas erroneously believed Bermudez was having an affair with his wife.

Thomas' lawyer claimed that his client had a cocaine addiction and was suffering from depression over his marital problems.

July 19

After 16 hours of deliberation over 3 days, the jury returned with their verdict. 

Thomas was acquitted of murder but was found guilty of manslaughter instead. Jurors believed he acted without full responsibility due to his drug use.

He was also found guilty of second-degree criminal weapons possession. 

September 10

Thomas is sentenced to eight and one-third to 25 years in prison on each of 10 counts of first-degree manslaughter. Aiello ordered the sentences to run consecutively for a total of 83 to 250 years. However, under state law, he would spend no more than 50 years behind bars.

September 12

Thomas is taken to Shawangunk Correctional Facility in upstate New York, where he would remain for the next 33 years.


Joanne Jaffe, the officer pictured carrying the sole survivor of the "Palm Sunday Massacre" out of the home, begins the process to adopt her. 


Thomas first becomes eligible for parole, and is denied. 



Thomas is denied parole a second time. 


Chief Jaffe, who rose the ranks to become the highest-ranking uniformed female in the NYPD, formally adopts Christina. 


Thomas is denied parole for a third time. 


April 13

Chief Jaffe and Christina share their story for the first and only time to The New York Times. 



Thomas is denied parole for a fourth time. 



Thomas is denied parole for a fifth time. 



Chief Jaffe steps aside from her duties and leaves the NYPD.

January 6

Christopher Thomas is quietly freed from prison on a conditional release, meaning he has served two-thirds of his full term. He will remain on parole until the 50-year sentence is served. 

March 30

InsideEdition.com breaks the news of Thomas’ release. 

April 24

New York State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis introduce legislation in the state capital that would deny conditional release for any person convicted of first-degree manslaughter. 

The bill has yet to be voted on. 


June 6

Thomas will fulfill his parole. He will be 84 years old.