Posted by: vote4claxton | November 30, 2006

NO JUSTICE IN THE KILLING OF TIMOTHY STANSBURY

 

NyDailyNews.com NY Crime
Originally published: November 29, 2006

It’s same old NYPD story

Tuesday, February 26th 2008, 3:52 AM


Nearly three years ago, in another police killing of an unarmed black man that outraged our city, Police Officer Richard Neri fatally shot Timothy Stansbury on a roof stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project.
Like Sean Bell, Stansbury, 19, had committed no crime. Like Bell, he was simply partying late one night with two boyhood friends.
Stansbury and his buddies tried to reach a party in an adjacent building by taking a shortcut across their roof when they suddenly came face to face at the roof door with Neri and his partner. The two cops were on a vertical patrol with their guns drawn.
A startled Neri discharged a single shot that killed Stansbury.
Back then, in January 2004, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly immediately called the shooting unjustifiable. For his honesty, the police union accused him of a rush to judgment.
And that was just one shot.
Not the 50-shot fusillade unleashed by five cops this weekend at Bell and his friends; not even the 31 rounds fired by one of the cops.
This time, it was Mayor Bloomberg, not Kelly, who publicly questioned the actions of the cops. The commissioner, who says he’s still investigating the facts in this latest incident, has clearly distanced himself from Bloomberg’s more critical remarks.
But the aftermath of Stansbury’s death, many black leaders say, is proof that sympathetic words mean nothing without concrete action from City Hall and Police Headquarters to improve police procedures, action that changes the culture of the Police Department.
Everyone agrees there has been improvement in police-community relations since the racial-profiling days of Rudy Giuliani and former Commissioner Howard Safir.
But incidents like the Stansbury and Bell killings show some things haven’t changed that much.
In early 2004, a Brooklyn grand jury quickly concluded that Neri’s actions, while tragic, did not warrant criminal charges. The jurors were reportedly swayed by Neri’s deep remorse. He broke down in tears on the stand and claimed he couldn’t recall what happened when he fired his gun.
The NYPD subsequently filed disciplinary charges against him. Now a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegate, Neri remains on modified assignment. Last May, he was quietly convicted in a departmental trial of failing to secure his weapon.
The trial judge in the case recommended punishment of 30 days’ lost vacation and a year’s probation.
Yes, you read that right: 30 lost vacation days for a failure that caused the killing of an innocent man.
Kelly, who jumped to label the Stansbury shooting unjustifiable when it was big news, has now taken more than five months to decide what to do with Neri.
Police commissioners are not required to follow a trial judge’s recommendation in determining discipline.
“He has asked for more information on the verdict before he makes a decision,” Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said last night.

“Stansbury was an example of photo ops for the commissioner and mayor and then nothing got done,” Marq Claxton, a retired detective and spokesman for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, said yesterday.

During a deposition in a civil suit by the Stansbury family this year – one the city has so far refused to settle – a lawyer asked Neri what caused him to fire his gun.
“It was a reflexive action. There was no conscious decision of mine to pull,” Neri said, according to a copy of the transcript obtained by the Daily News.
“What do you mean by that?” the lawyer asked.
“It was more of a startling action like a flinch, like if someone got scared, you flinch. You make a fist,” he said.
Later in the deposition, Neri was asked why he referred to Stansbury in his official report of the shooting as a “perp,” short for perpetrator.
“That’s how we, being the Police Department, it’s a slang term how it’s referred to in this case,” the cop said.
Neri’s lawyer, Mitch Garber, did not respond to a request for comment about the case yesterday.
The city still has not “changed the culture of the Police Department,” Queens City Councilman James Sanders said yesterday during a press conference with Bloomberg and Kelly.
Stansbury was no “perp.” Neither was Sean Bell. They were citizens of this city mistakenly killed by police officers sworn to protect them.
Only actions, not words, will reduce such tragedies in the future.
jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

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