Susan Sarandon, among others, were arrested protesting the verdict of the Amadou Diallo shooting trial.

A Daily News analysis of NYPD police shootings started with the death of Amadou Diallo in 1999, an unarmed man who was killed in a flurry of bullets and ends with the death of Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn stairwell last month.  A Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner, a father of six, and a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, stunned the nation and fueled countrywide protests over police brutality.  A Daily News investigation found that 179 people were killed by on-duty NYPD officers over the past 15 years.  Only 4 of the shootings led to indictments and only 1 led to a conviction (with no jail time).

Nearly 16 years ago, Amadou Diallo, 22, was gunned down in a hail of police bullets.  Diallo, an African immigrant, was standing in the lobby of his Bronx apartment building when 4 police officers misidentified him as a suspect in a sexual assault.  They ordered him to show his hands, as Diallo reached for his wallet, the officers fired 41 bullets, killing him.  The officers were all acquitted of murder.

Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou, said, “We can come together not only to protest…but for something positive…We’ve been through this so much…It seems like we just move on and…pretend like nothing is happening.”

Earlier this month, it was an emotional scene at Brown Memorial Baptist Church as family members mourned the loss of Akai Gurley (left), 28, who was killed by a rookie cop in a dark public housing stairwell.  Gurley, the father of a 2-year-old was unarmed, when he was killed inside the Pink Houses on November 20th in an incident described by the NYPD as “an unfortunate accident.”  Holding his flash light in one hand and his drawn gun in the other, Officer Peter Liang was patrolling the stairwell.  He reached for the door to the 8th floor landing when his gun discharged.  The bullet reportedly ricocheted and struck Gurley who had just entered the stairwell one floor below.  Liang reportedly did not call an ambulance, but instead began texting his police union representative.  He and his partner, Shaun Landau, were radio silent for 6 1/2 minutes after Akai was shot.  A police commander and an emergency operator, responding to a 911 call from a resident, tried to reach them without success.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson is readying evidence to present to a grand jury soon.

In addition, the officers were not supposed to be performing what is known as a “vertical”, a floor to floor public housing patrol.  Instead they were supposed to be policing the exterior in response to increased violence in the area.  When the officers finally radioed the shooting in, they reported an accidental discharge, but didn’t make it clear they struck a person in need of medical care.  The stairwell was pitch black because the lights had not been fixed by the NYC Housing Authority, they were finally fixed a few hours after Gurley’s death.  While the shooting was probably an accident, the conduct after the shooting could be considered negligence.

Since 1999:

  • At least 27% of all fatal police shootings in New York involve an unarmed victim.
  • 86% of all fatal shootings have an African American or Hispanic victim.
  • 2012 had the highest concentration of fatal shootings by the NYPD, 18 people were killed.
  • More than 25% of off-duty fatalities involved an unarmed victim, usually a case of mistaken identity or innocent bystander.
  • Roughly 20% of the cases involved a person who is mentally ill.

Only NYPD Officer Bryan Conroy was convicted, in 2005, of criminally negligent homicide for killing Ousmane Zongo, 43, a married father of two.  He was killed during a raid on a Chelsea warehouse suspected of counterfeiting goods.  Zongo was not even suspected of wrongdoing.  He worked at the warehouse and happened upon Conroy who was disguised as a postal worker.  Conroy drew his weapon and shot Zongo 4 times.  Conroy’s first trial, was a jury trial, and it resulted in a hung jury.  His second trial was a bench trial, in which the judge convicted him and sentenced him to probation and community service.

Note:  The News’ analysis was based on information compiled by organizations such as the Prison Reform Organizing Project and the Stolen Lives Project, the NYPD’s annual firearms discharge reports, press reports, and court documents. The News only included deaths that involved an active member of the force and were a direct result of the officer’s actions.  The News found 222 deaths total during the 15-year span — 43 of which involved off-duty officers, some of whom stepped in when they saw trouble, others who were involved in personal disputes or driving drunk. The News was only able to identify 10 convictions covering 14 of those off-duty deaths.  One case is pending.  The NYPD has not submitted officer-involved death statistics to the FBI since 2006.

Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, told the media that during that same 15 year span 80 officers died.  This statistic counts officers who were killed in the September 11th terrorist attack and from related health complications.

“Our work has saved tens of thousands of lives,” Lynch said of police.

Commissioner Bill Bratton said in an interview on Good Day New York, “We have some of the lowest number of incidents of taking lives in this country.”

Not all of the deaths involved shootings.  For example, in 2008, Iman Morales was found naked and waving a fluorescent bulb on the 2nd floor ledge of a building in Brooklyn.  Lt. Michael Pigott ordered that his officers use a Taser to subdue Morales, who not surprisingly, subsequently fell headfirst onto the concrete below.  Lt. Pigott committed suicide 8 days later.

Eric Garner’s case was rare.  Video captured the events leading up to his death.  Garner, 43, said 11 times, “I can’t breathe” as officers piled on top of him.  The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide caused by a chokehold, a tactic used by police even though it is against police policy.  There were other cases where unarmed civilians in New York were choked or suffocated by police, but there was no video, no public outrage, and no grand jury.

James Young, 49, a father of three, was choked by a narcotics detective for “an extended period of time” until he foamed at the mouth.  This caused him to fall into a coma before dying.  The Brooklyn district attorney declined to press charges and a civil lawsuit was settled for almost $1 million last summer.

In 2012, Shereese Francis, 29, suffering from mental illness, died of heart failure after 4 male officers suffocated her.  The officers had been called to help get her into an ambulance.  The Queens DA declined to prosecute and the family was awarded $1.1 million in a civil lawsuit.  Her death was ruled a homicide due to chest compression.

In Manhattan there have been 41 deaths since 1999, former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau had a policy to present all fatal police shootings to a grand jury.  He secured the conviction in the Zongo case.

In Brooklyn, there have been 75 deaths.

Tamon Robinson was fatally struck by an NYPD police cruiser in 2012 as police chased him for stealing rocks from a public housing project.  That case was never presented to a grand jury.

In 2009, Army Vet Shem Walker, 49, got into a fight with an undercover officer who was sitting on the porch of his grandmother’s building.  Walker did not know the man was a police officer and was on an active stakeout of a nearby bust.  Walker punched the man and the officer pulled his gun out and shot Walker three times at close range.  The investigation took 4 years.  The case was never submitted to a grand jury.  His family received $2 million in a settlement earlier this year.

“There was absolutely no reason that I can fathom for keeping these cases open for so long,” said the Walker family’s lawyer, Scott Rynecki, “The fact that prior DA Hynes sat on these cases for so long left no choice for the new DA because so much time had passed. The families are entitled to closure.”

Bronx DA Robert Johnson secured a manslaughter indictment against Officer Richard Haste who, in 2012, followed Ramarley Graham into his home as part of a drug investigation.  The teen allegedly reached for his waistband when Haste opened fire.  No weapon was ever found.  A judge subsequently tossed out the indictment on a legal technicality.  The case was presented to a new grand jury who did not indict.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown prosecuted three officers for manslaughter and reckless endangerment for the 2006 killing of Sean Bell.  Bell was leaving a bachelor party with two friends when police shot their gray Nissan Altima with 50 bullets.  Three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial and were found not guilty.  In 2010 the city agreed to pay the family $3.25 million in a settlement.  The two passengers in Bell’s car survived the shooting, Joseph Guzman, 34, has four bullets lodged in his body and must walk with a cane and leg brace and Trent Benefield, 26, received $3 million and almost $1 million respectively.

The New York City Detectives Endowment Association called the settlement a joke, “The detectives were exonerated…and now the taxpayer is on the hook for $7 million and the attorneys are in line to get $ 2 million without suffering a scratch.”

Liverpool Street from 94th Ave to 101st Ave in Queens was renamed Sean Bell Way in 2010 in memory of Bell.

The federal authorities are investigating the Graham and Garner cases, but it has been 20 years since federal authorities prosecuted fatal police shootings in New York.  In 1994, Anthony Baez, 29, was tossing a football with his brothers in the Bronx when the ball hit a police car.  Officer Frank Livoti became enraged and choked Baez to death.  A Bronx grand jury indicted him, but he was acquitted by a judge at trial.  In 1998, he was convicted in a federal civil rights case and sentenced to 7 years.  The Latin Kings allegedly contracted men to kill Capt. Steven Plavnick as retaliation for the acquittal in 1997.  Plavnick survived.


Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s