Bush, Cheney: what we’ve become…

…through PAVLOV’S studies. And the “mentality” we’ve gained through their concerted efforts.

I won’t give my view of this latest tragedy coming from New York, you’ll have to do the background study for yourself.

Investigators Review Events Leading to Shooting of Officer

Patrick Andrade for The New York Times

Police officers at the site of the shooting last night.

Published: May 29, 2009

Investigators on Friday were trying to piece together the events that led to the fatal shooting of an off-duty New York City police officer by a fellow officer who mistook him for an armed criminal on a dark and mist-shrouded street in East Harlem late Thursday night.

The slain plain clothes officer, Omar J. Edwards, 25, of Brooklyn, who was assigned to patrol housing projects, was shot in the arm and chest after a team of three other plainclothes officers in a car saw him chasing a man on East 125th Street between First and Second Avenues with his gun drawn, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

Sources identified the officer who fired the shots as Andrew Dunton, a four-year veteran of the force from Long Island.

According to investigators, Officer Dunton and the two other officers assigned to the anticrime unit in the 25th Precinct got out of their vehicle and confronted Officer Edwards. On Friday, the department was investigating whether the officers had identified themselves or demanded that Officer Edwards drop his weapon before Officer Dunton opened fire.

Mr. Kelly said two of six bullets fired from the officer’s 9-millimeter Glock struck Officer Edwards, who had just come off duty and was not wearing a bulletproof vest.

Officer Edwards, a recently married father of two from Brooklyn, was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:21 p.m. No one else was injured.

“While we don’t know all of the details of what happened tonight, this is a tragedy,” Mayor Bloomberg said during an early morning news conference at the hospital. “Rest assured we will find out exactly what happened here and see what we can learn from it so it can never happen again.”

The Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said his office was investigating the shooting and that the case would be presented to a grand jury. But he cautioned that it was standard procedure to bring all police shootings before a grand jury, except in very few cases in which it is clear that the shooting was justified.

“Whenever there’s any question about justification, it goes to the grand jury,” Mr. Morgenthau said.

The shooting has once again raised questions again about departmental procedures involving communications among plainclothes officers — particularly those in different units — as well as issues of race.

Officer Edwards was black, and Officer Dunton is white.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said on Friday that he was “concerned of a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals.”

“This calls for federal investigation and intervention to sort out the facts and bring about a just resolve,” Mr. Sharpton said. “Can police investigate themselves fairly and impartially? It would seem very difficult at best and unlikely in fact.”

Mayor Bloomberg said on his morning radio show that investigators were reviewing security tapes of the shooting, which he maintained was not deliberate, and interviewing witnesses. Investigators were also questioning the man Officer Edwards had been chasing.

“The only thing that can come out of this is to improve procedures so perhaps it doesn’t happen again,” the mayor said. “We all know policing is a dangerous job and accidents happen when people have guns in their hands, even legal guns in this case which they are authorized and trained to use.”

He added: “It’s easy for people to say, ‘oh, you know, how can this happen,’ but when the adrenaline is running, and you don’t know where the bullets are coming from, and you don’t know who that person is on the other side of the street, it’s easy to second guess. That’s why they are trained. Can you ever do enough training? I suppose not.”

The department’s policy manual — the Patrol Guide — is specific in putting the responsibility on the off-duty officer in such situations.

In one section, titled “confrontation situations,” it says that if an off-duty officer is trying to make a arrest and is confronted by an on-duty officer, that the off-duty officer must abandon the arrest effort and comply with the on-duty officer’s orders.

“In such encounters, the actions of the members in the first few seconds are of vital importance,” the guide states. “It must be absolutely clear in the minds of all members of the service that in any confrontation, the burden of proving identity rests on the confronted officer, whether on or off duty. The challenging officer, however, also has a responsibility to use sound tactics and judgment in approaching the situation.”

For member of the Police Department, the tragedy was compounded because Officer Edwards’s father-in-law is also a police officer stationed in the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn, officials said.

Investigators Review Events Leading to Shooting of Officer

Patrick Andrade for The New York Times

Dozens of officers gathered outside the Harlem Hospital Center emergency room early Friday morning.

Mr. Kelly said the tragic string of events began when Officer Edwards left duty about 10:30 p.m., approached his car and saw that a man had broken the driver’s side window and was rummaging through the vehicle. The two scuffled, and the man escaped Officer Edwards’s grip by slipping out of his sweater.

A police official said officers at the scene learned that Officer Edwards was a colleague only when they ripped open his shirt in an effort to revive him and saw a Police Academy T-shirt. They then searched his pants pockets and found a badge.

Officer Dunton and his two colleagues in the car that spotted Officer Edwards — one of them a sergeant — were all assigned to the anti-crime unit from the 25th Precinct. Investigators were interviewing the two officers in the car who did not fire at Officer Edwards. The department does not interview officers involved in fatal shootings until a prosecutor determines whether criminal charges will be brought.

The man who apparently broke into Officer Edwards’s car, Miguel Santiago, was also being interviewed by investigators, officials said. The police said his five previous arrests include charges of robbery, assault and drug violations.

There have been at least two cases of off-duty police officers being shot by colleagues in the New York region in recent years.

In January 2008, a Mount Vernon officer, Christopher A. Ridley, 23, was killed by Westchester County police officers in downtown White Plains as he tried to restrain a homeless man whom he had seen assault another person.

And in February 2006, a New York City officer, Eric Hernandez, 24, was fatally shot by a fellow officer while responding to a 911 call about a fight at a White Castle restaurant in the Bronx.

Thursday night’s shooting occurred near the approach to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough).

Maalik Lane, 20, was waiting for a bus nearby at 125th Street and Third Avenue when, he said, he heard more than five gunshots.

“I saw police, up to 20 police cars,” driving by at high speeds, said Mr. Lane, who lives on Wards Island. “I was, like, someone is having a shootout with police. The bus driver said, ‘Somebody shot the police.’ ”

Mr. Lane added, “I feared for my life.”

Just before 1 a.m. Friday, the ambulance parking bay at the hospital had been roped off, with six police officers standing sentry. More than a dozen officers, some in uniform, others in plain clothes, paced and waited for news.

After the news conference, about 3 a.m., officers left the hospital, several in tears and consoling one another.

On Friday morning, members of the Police Department’s football team, commiserated over their teammate, colleague and friend — “a great guy,” as Det. Ed Gardner put it — during a practice at Erasmus Hall High School.

“We are a little sluggish today,” said Detective Gardner, one of the team’s administrators. “Everybody is like, it is like you are missing a family member.”

It was not long ago that the team lost another member to friendly fire: Officer Eric Hernandez.

“Omar is the same type of person,” he said. “A great man.”

Detective Gardner said that Officer Edwards, though not a starter, played on the team last year. This year he was taking time off because of his recent marriage.

“He was a team player, he said, “and he was all about team.”

(When is the time when “TEAM MEMBERS don’t KNOW each other!?!)

These questions are part of what has happened to us these past eight years. Do we want to make the time to, not only, answer them… but fix them? One can’t fix something unless they know its broken.


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