2005-04-15 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach


The Village Voice hates cops. Actually, the Voice hates government, especially New York City government.

Shortly after a mistrial was declared in the manslaughter trial of a cop who fatally shot West African immigrant Ousmane Zongo, it ran a list of all the New York City cops who shot somebody and were never tried for what the Voice considers the murder of citizens. The paper published a list of 35 police shootings from 1999 to 2005 in which somebody was killed, the implication being that the cops got away with those 35 “murders” because there is some sort of conspiracy between the police and the district attorneys.

Anybody familiar with the cases, however, knows that, in the majority of cases, the cops had no choice to shoot.

Let’s look at some of the cases that the Voice lists and some of the reality about those shootings.

March 15, 1999: Cops fire 52 shots at Mark Fordie in Brooklyn. The DA declines to prosecute. In fact, Fordie was robbing somebody when cops found him. He fired first at the cops.

May 25, 1999: Sergeant Edward Hiem fires one shot, killing Rodney Mason, 38 at his mother’s home. The DA declined to prosecute. In fact, Mason had just stabbed Police Officer Steve DeLuca when the shot was fired.

June 28, 1999: Renato Mercado, 63, is shot by a police officer in the hallway of his Manhattan apartment building. The DA declines to prosecute. In fact, Mercado was wielding a 17-inch-long knife at the officer when the cop shot him once in the chest.

August 15, 1999: An undercover police officer shoots Angel Reyes, 47 in East Harlem. A grand jury chooses not to indict. In fact, the undercover narcotics cop and Reyes were doing a drug sale when Reyes pulled a 34-inch-long machete and began chasing the cop through the streets.

August 30, 1999: Gideon Busch, an emotionally disturbed man, is shot 12 times by cops in Borough Park. A grand jury chooses not to indict. In fact, Bush, 31, was on the street menacing people with a hammer. He refused to drop it and lunged at police.

October 28, 1999: Dion McQueen, 17, is shot in the neck by police. The DA declines prosecution. In fact, McQueen and two accomplices had just robbed a Brooklyn gas station. One of the three fired at responding police officers and McQueen was shot by the return fire.

January 17, 2000: Alan Zelencic, 28, is shot to death by police in his mother’s home. A grand jury chooses not to indict. In fact, Zelencic had just stabbed his mother and he lunged at police with a 15-inch knife.

March 31, 2000: Tysheen Bourne, 19, and Andre Fields, 17, are shot and killed by undercover cops in Brooklyn. The DA declines to prosecute though the two were wielding only toy guns. In fact, the two attempted to use those realistic-looking toy guns to rob the undercover police officers.

April 30, 2003: Police fatally shot Floyd Quinones, 28, in Brooklyn at his friend’s birthday party. The DA chooses not to prosecute. In fact, police responded to the birthday party because Quinones had already fired 17 shots into the air. When they entered the party, he aimed his gun at the cops and refused to give it up.

September 19, 2003: Ex-corrections officer Stephen Seignious, 37, is shot and killed by police in the Fordham section of the Bronx. The DA chooses not to prosecute. In fact, Siegnious was shot while waving a fake but realistic-looking replica of a Glock automatic and pointing it at police who responded to a call of “man with a gun.”

August 30, 2004: Police officers fatally shoot Rashawn Sharif Moody, 18 in a Brooklyn car wash. The DA chooses not to prosecute. In fact, Moody was shot in a wild gunfight during a suspected armed robbery at that car wash.

January 6, 2005: Cops in Queens fatally shoot Brian Allen, 46, after a car crash. The case is still pending before the Queens DA. In fact, Allen was a suspect in a shooting, kidnapping and rape earlier in the day when he crashed his car in a getaway attempt.

I think that’s enough for my readers to get the gist of the report. The Village Voice put the long list together to prove to the public that the police are too quick on the trigger, especially when minority men are concerned.

I think it proves something completely the opposite. To my mind, it proves the startling danger that our police officers face every day.

Before I go any further, a disclaimer. Somebody who disagrees with me is going to start screaming, “of course you’re going to say that the police are right because your son’s a cop,” I have to tell you all that my opinion has nothing to do with that fact although his position does allow me to get another view of the NYPD.

My opinion in this matter comes more from my 30 years in the school system, dealing with young, often emotionally handicapped students as well as from by fifteen years of covering Rockaway for The Wave.

In any case, in each of the cases above, and in many more on the longer list published in the Voice, the cops were right to shoot.

Police officers have a macabre slogan, “Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.” Having a son on the job, I believe that.

The pilots who flew the high-performance fighter jets off the carrier I was assigned to in the early 1960’s put it another way. “Always honor a threat,” was their mantra. To turn your back on a threat was to get shot down, they believed.

They are right.

I firmly believe that anybody who waves a weapon at a cop or points a weapon in their direction is taking his life in his own hands in a very real and dangerous way.

The gun is a fake! How is the cop to know that the gun is a fake? Should the cop be required to wait until the gun is fired before he or she can shoot back? That is a death sentence for the cops involved.

The fact of the matter is that the police are trained in using their weapons in a disciplined matter.

Are there errors, accidents, incidents? There are horrendous errors. We read about them all the time. Cops searching for a rapist who think that a man with a cell phone in his hand is holding a gun. Cops who are startled on a project rooftop when a door suddenly opens and teenagers come pouring out. A kid in a project hallway with a fake gun in his waistband who refused to drop it and pulls it out rather than giving it up. Emotionally disturbed people with hammers and knives, machetes and guns. Domestic battles where the victim quickly becomes the aggressor when police arrive. It’s a tough world and the police don’t need to be second-guessed by those who sit at their computers and have no understanding of what is happening on the streets and in the schools.

That goes for some newspapers, such as the Village Voice, the voice of New York Liberalism and of the effete elite who think it a tragedy when the champagne runs out.

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