No charges against officers who killed cop

March 12, 2008 4:05:10 PM PDT
A grand jury has voted not to indict the four policemen involved in the fatal shooting of an off-duty officer who was making an arrest on a downtown street.The 23 jurors found "no reasonable cause to believe that a criminal offense was committed" when Mount Vernon Officer Christopher Ridley was killed in White Plains by Westchester County police, District Attorney Janet DiFiore said Wednesday.

Evidence compiled from 85 witness statements and 29 surveillance videos showed that Ridley did not obey orders to drop his weapon, then turned toward the other officers while holding his gun, White Plains police Commissioner Frank Straub said.

Ridley's mother, Felita Bouche, was not satisfied.

"I feel in my heart he was executed by the Westchester County Police Department," Bouche said after she was notified of the grand jury's decision. She did not elaborate.

Ridley, 23, was killed Jan. 25 after he saw a man flee the scene of a street assault.

As he chased the man, with his gun in his waistband, Ridley ducked into the county office building and called for help but did not identify himself as a police officer, a witness said.

Four county officers emerged and saw Ridley holding a gun on the suspect. They also may have heard a shot that went off a few seconds earlier as Ridley and the suspect struggled for the gun, Straub said.

A majority of the witnesses said the four officers shouted at Ridley to drop his gun, but he did not obey and did not say he was a policeman, Straub said. It was possible Ridley did not hear the commands, he said.

At least three of the officers fired a total of 10 shots, six of which hit Ridley and two of which were fatal.

The assault suspect, a 39-year-old homeless man, was indicted by the grand jury on an assault charge. He was accused of breaking his victim's wrists in the beating.

Sgt. Michael Hagan, president of the county police union, said the four officers - Detective Robin Martin and officers Jose Calero, Frank Oliveri and Christian Gutierrez - were relieved to hear of the grand jury decision, although they had been "confident that they did everything they were supposed to do."

"These officers can now start moving on with their careers," he said.

Hagan said that there was no celebrating and added that the lack of an indictment "shouldn't take away from the fact that Detective Ridley still acted heroically on the street."

One of the four county officers is black, one is white and two are Hispanic. Soon after Ridley's death, his pastor called it "an outrageous execution of a young African-American," and the Rev. Al Sharpton questioned whether Ridley would have been shot if he were white.

But there was no apparent rancor at the Mount Vernon Police Department's mournful memorial ceremony, at which Ridley was promoted to detective and his shields were retired. The police chaplain, the Rev. Richard Dixon, said Ridley "gave his life so we may come together."

County Executive Andy Spano released the following statement:

"This has been a terrible tragedy for everyone involved: Officer Ridley, his family, the Mount Vernon Police community and the officers who were the subject of today's Grand Jury decision,'' said County Executive Andy Spano. "The Grand Jury has found that the officers acted in a manner that was proper based on what was known at the time. That said, the best way to honor the memory of this brave, young man is to make sure that we take a hard look at training and procedure to make sure this never, ever happens again. We have already put together an internal working group of respected experts to examine procedures within the Westchester County Police training as well as what is taught to recruits at our police academy.''


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