The attorney general of New York state is reviewing a video that shows an off-duty police officer fatally shooting a man who had approached his car in Brooklyn last week.
The security video tape was acquired by the attorney general’s office, according to ABC News, and was released several days after the July 4 incident. The release of the video comes around a time when footage of two other officer-involved shootings – one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the other in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, became national news.
The video appears to undermine an earlier police report asserting that the New York City police officer, Wayne Isaacs, was punched in the head through his driver’s-side window by Delrawn Small, leading Isaacs to fire three shots from his service weapon, hitting Small in the head and chest, according to the New York Post.
The graphic video does show Small getting shot as he approaches a 2002 Nissan Altima. The video, though somewhat blurred, does not appear to show Small punching Isaacs.
After being shot, the 37-year-old Small can be seen keeling over before stumbling into another car and falling on the ground. He eventually collapses between two parked cars.
Small’s relatives told the New York Daily News that the footage makes it indisputably clear that the killing was unwarranted.
“The video is as clear as day,” Small’s brother Victor Dempsey told the paper. “That everything they told us from the very beginning was a lie. Was a lie. Every single thing. And I don’t know how to feel now. All I know is my brother was murdered. Point blank period murdered.”
Victoria Davis, Small’s sister, said the footage showed her brother’s final moments were filled with suffering.
“To just watch him stumble from car to car, knowing that he suffered, knowing that he was afraid, that was hard,” she said. “That’s not a video that I would ever want to see again.”
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters that he was unwilling to comment on the incident prematurely, according to the New York Post.
“It’s too early to determine what transpired . . . before, during and then after the incident,” he said.
Witnesses told police that the incident began when Isaacs, 37, cut off Small’s 2016 Kia, according to the Daily News. Isaacs, a three-year veteran of the department, was on his way home from work after pulling a late shift, and Small was driving with his girlfriend and their three children, the paper reported. When the vehicles came to a stop at a light, Small can be seen on video exiting his car and walking toward the driver’s-side door of Isaacs’ car.
Isaacs told investigators that Small punched him at least two times through the officer’s window.
“The officer was being assaulted and there was no opportunity for him to de-escalate the situation when someone ran across the street and attacked him,” an unnamed police source told the New York Post. “He’s a victim, trapped in his vehicle.”
Eric Soufer, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Scheniderman, told the Associated Press that prosecutors were “actively reviewing the case” and had already secured a search warrant for the officer’s vehicle. The attorney general’s office – which is authorized to investigate police shootings when the individual killed is unarmed – had been in contact with police and Small’s family, the AP reported.
State Assemblyman Charles Barron told ABC this week that he’s helping the Small family in their effort to hold police accountable for their relative’s death. The Brooklyn Democrat said the officer should have driven away or de-escalated the situation with verbal warnings.
“Even if there was a punch, there’s no justification – zero – for the use of deadly force,” Barron said.
It has been almost exactly a year since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced that the state attorney general would be the special prosecutor for some of these deaths.
“Our goal is to . . . start to build trust again,” Cuomo said at a news conference Wednesday. “Where does the breakdown of trust start? A belief that there is a conflict of interest when the current criminal justice system investigates cases about law enforcement.”
Cuomo’s executive order came nearly a year after the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed man who died after police placed him in a chokehold. It states that the attorney general’s office would “investigate, and if warranted, prosecute” cases involving unarmed people who die at the hands of police.
Cuomo’s order also says the attorney general can investigate cases where “there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death.”
Isaacs remains on active duty as Schneiderman’s office begins their investigation and New York police conduct a departmental review, according to the Daily News. Last year, the Post reported, “the city paid out $20,000 to settle a racially charged suit in which Isaacs and another officer were accused of beating a man who one of the cops allegedly called a “n—r” on July 6, 2014, court records show.”
Attorney Roger Wareham, who is representing Small’s family, told the Daily News that the video was proof Isaacs fabricated his account.
“If the cop’s story is obviously false, why haven’t they arrested him?” he asked.
Small’s adoptive mother, Geraldine Dempsey, told the New York Post that the entire incident should have been avoided.
“My son didn’t have a gun,” she said. “It didn’t have to go that far. Whatever happened, I don’t know, but he didn’t have to grab his gun and shoot him in the head.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Peter Holley