NEW YORK – A young African American couple was tragically torn apart as a bullet from a New York Police Department officer’s gun ended the life of 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury Jr.
Stansbury had been walking from one apartment to another across the roof of the Armstrong Houses, a housing complex in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, to get a CD for a birthday party when he was shot dead by NYPD housing officer Richard Neri on Jan. 24. According to reports, Stansbury was doing nothing wrong at the time. The given reason for the shooting was that Stansbury “startled” Neri when he was walking up the stairs.
Though Neri and his unidentified partner were on a routine patrol and not responding to a call about a dangerous situation, the officers, both of whom are white, already had their guns drawn when they came across Stansbury. Friends and family were shocked to hear the NYC Police Commissioner justify this, saying the city can’t “micromanage” police officers.
“You can’t fire your weapon without saying anything – halt, freeze, or stop,” said New York City Councilor Charles Barron. “The police commissioner has to be responsible for telling police officers it’s all right for them to be on the roof with their guns drawn when nobody called them to a dangerous situation.”
“That’s why we want officers that are living in our neighborhood,” Barron continued. “If they would have lived in the neighborhood, if they would have known New York City, if they knew our inner-city youth, they’d know that it’s common practice for young people to use the roof to cross to apartments on the other floors as opposed to going downstairs and coming back up. Now if you know that that’s a normal route that young people take, why would you tell your officers to have their guns ready, and drawn, when you go up on the roof?”
A neighborhood resident who did not want to be identified said, “When you have two white cops kill an unarmed Black civilian for walking to his apartment – how are you going to tell me that’s not racism?”
“We have to hold everybody accountable, from our public officials to our police department,” said Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn. “If we bring everyone to be held accountable it will not happen again.”
NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelley, responding to the shooting, admitted that it was unjustified. In response, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association accused Kelley of playing politics and tainting the investigation.
Councilor Barron, referring to previous instances of police violence, said, “Every time the police commissioner, in his preliminary investigation, said to the city that ‘this is a justified shooting,’ the PBA was happy. Now, with a preliminary investigation saying it was not justified, they’re screaming. … The DA’s office will determine whether there’s an indictment or not, not the PBA. And they should not protect officers when they’re doing wrong. They lose credibility like that.”
The shooting has provoked outrage across the city, from the City Council down. Dozens of people marched in front of the 79th precinct in Brooklyn on Jan. 25, demanding justice.
The District Attorney said that the case will go before a grand jury, which will consider charges against Neri. Barron suggested that the jury should have charges of murder, manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, and depraved indifference put before them.
Aside from seeking justice, family members, friends, and community groups are also demanding that changes be made to stem the tide of police violence and racism. They urge the hiring of police from the community and more citizen control of the police force.
Stansbury left behind his family and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Patrice Hyppolite. The couple, who friends and family say loved each other very much, planned to marry when Stansbury turned 26.
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