, Staff Writer
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com)–Rev. Al Sharpton has joined activists and family members of men shot by New York City police on Jan. 1 and 2 in asking for an independent investigation. Four people killed by police in the first two days of the New Year.
“Four deaths in two days is enough cause to pause,” Rev. Sharpton said during a rally at the Harlem-based National Action Network. “If the shootings are just, we will say it’s just. If not we will say that too,” Rev. Sharpton said.
Anthony Reid, 21 and Jamal Nixon, 19, were shot in Brooklyn, after police watched them fire guns allegedly in celebration of the New Year. Officers investigating robberies of local deliverymen killed Allen Newsome, 17, in a Harlem hallway. Police officials said Mr. Newsome put a toy 9 mm gun to the head of an officer who was posing as a deliveryman. Three hours later John Lagutta, 35, allegedly led police on a high-speed chase in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in a stolen van. He died from a bullet wound to the chest. The medical examiner said Mr. Reid and Mr. Nixon were shot in the back.
Rev. Sharpton cautioned his audience not to “rush to judgment” and was not the only one who cautioned against blaming police before all of the facts are known.
“Critics should silence their attacks against the NYPD. These officers had to protect themselves. The streets on New Year’s Eve resembled West Beirut, with gunfire all over the place,” Lt. Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, stressed at a press conference. Lt. Adams also supports a bill in the City Council that would ban the sale of toy guns in New York City stores.
“The community is not rushing to judge anyone. What we are saying is make sure all of the facts are known,” Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York) told The Final Call during an exclusive telephone interview. Councilman Barron, at an earlier press conference, said he believed it was too early for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to say three of the shootings were justified. Councilman Barron said he talked to the Commanding Officer of the 73rd Precinct, where Mr. Reid was killed. “The C.O. told me that he has yet to talk to the officers involved, so how does the commissioner know that the shootings are justified?” Councilman Barron asked.
“We are asked to take the word of the same police department that shot Amadou Diallo 19 times and all he had in his hand was a wallet,” Councilman Barron observed. He was referring to the 1999 slaying of Mr. Diallo, a West African immigrant, who was gunned down in front of his apartment building by four White police officers.
According to police data, police shootings have decreased since Mr. Diallo’s murder. In the year before the Diallo shooting, 1998, police shot 62 people, 62 died. The year after, there were 42 people shot, with 11 deaths. The police shooting statistics for 2001 note 28 shot, 11 killed. In 2002, 37 people were shot and 12 killed, according to NYPD stats.
Analysts such as Paul G. Chevigny, a professor at New York University School of Law, who studies the use of deadly force, said it is hard to know why police shootings are down. “The sense is that commanders cautioned officers that there was a lot of public sentiment out there against the use of force, and because of that, officers have been more careful,” Mr. Chevigny said.