Mother of slain cop speaks out

Officers who shot Chris Ridley identified
January 28, 2008 3:42:33 PM PST
Police in White Plains are still trying to get to the bottom of a deadly police shooting that killed an off-duty officer on Friday.Detectives are looking for anyone who may have witnessed the shooting.

On Monday, the mother of 23-year-old Christopher Ridley visited the spot where her son died. She spoke out publicly for the first time.

Eyewitness News reporter Marcus Solis has the latest.

White Plains police are releasing very little information in this highly sensitive case. It involves two police agencies and one young cop, who died trying to do the right thing.

Ridley's mother laid flowers at the spot where her son died in a hail of police bullets.

"He asked for help that day," a visibly distraught Felita Bouche said. "You ask your brothers, your fellow brothers, the police officers to help you, not to kill you."

There are still no hard answers, but more information is being released. We now know the identities of the four Westchester police officers involved in the shooting. They are officers Jose Calero, Christian Gutierrez and Frank Oliveri, and Detective Robin Martin.

The 35-year-old Calero has been a Westchester County cop for eight months. Gutierrez, 28, was a member of the department for six months. He was a Peekskill cop for nearly two years, and is a former Marine with tours of duty in Kuwait and Iraq. Oliveri is 38 and a 6-year veteran who previously worked in the NYPD for two years. The 47-year-old Martin has been a county cop for 20 years. Before that, he was a Mount vernon police officer. He still lives in Mount Vernon and personally knows the Ridley family.

White Plains police have not released ballistic tests or the number of shots fired and who fired them.

The confusion and chaos of that night has resulted in several different versions of what happened.

Witness Holly Savage says it was clear that Officer Ridley did not hear the command to drop his weapon.

"A few of the police officers said, 'Put your gun down,' from what I could hear," she said. "It was hard to hear because there was so much commotion going on when the cops came out...He didn't drop it."

Ridley was off-duty, out of uniform and out of his jurisdiction when he witnessed an assault during an argument between two men. Authorities say he ran into the county office building and asked for help, then tried to arrest one of the suspects, Anthony Jacobs. But at some point, Ridley's gun fell, eithger grabbed or dropped. The weapon discharged, police say, and the four Westchester County cops responded.

They opened fire, not realizing Ridley was taking police action.

Jacobs is now being charged with second-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

White Plains police are now analyzing security video from the area and has interviewed more than 35 witnesses. A communications van is parked on Court Street, where the shooting happened, to encourage more people to come forward.

Authorities say paramedics responded to the scene within minutes, but that Ridley was already dead. The Reverend Al Sharpton, speaking on ABC's "The View," said that Ridley's parents asked him to get involved in the case. He said he never gets involved without the family's permission.

More on the investigation into the deadly shooting of Officer Christopher Ridley

The president of the police union in Mount Vernon, Kevin Mandel, said Ridley "couldn't have done anything wrong," and praised him as a hero for trying to break up the assault.

Mount Vernon Police Commissioner David E. Chong called the slain officer "a quiet and kind soul," and said he was confident the White Plains Police Department - which operates independently from the Westchester County department - would conduct an impartial investigation.

The shooting prompted a visit to White Plains on Saturday by Sharpton, who called for a thorough probe.

Ridley attended the same church in Mount Vernon as the chairman of Sharpton's civil rights group.

Speaking to reporters in front of the White Plains police headquarters, Sharpton said he didn't know whether race was a factor in the shooting.

Ridley is black. Authorities did not initially reveal the ethnicity of the officers, who shot him. Sharpton said he would reserve judgment until the facts are known, and expected investigators to do the same.

"As we are calling on the community not to rush to judgment, the police should not rush to judgment," Sharpton said. "You should not do a 12-hour investigation and say it was a justified shooting."

Ridley's father, Stanley, stood with Sharpton during the news conference but did not speak to reporters. Nearby, a group of women sobbed, "They killed our baby."

The Reverend William Mizell, associated pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, remembered the slain officer as a music lover who was active in the congregation and would sometimes help children cross the street on their way to services.

"This was a young man who always had compassion for others," Mizell said. "That's how he lived and that's how he died." He said Ridley was single and had no children. Ridley's father is a custodian at the church.

Ridley joined the Mount Vernon police force in 2006.

Chong called him an officer with "unlimited potential."