A Federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on Friday, April 10 in U.S District Court in White Plains naming DiFiore, County Executive Andrew Spano, Westchester Police Commissioner Thomas Belfiore, the County of Westchester and four county police officers who were involved in the shooting.
The lawsuit alleges that Westchester police officer Frank Oliveri shot Ridley at point blank range in the head as Ridley was falling defenselessly to the ground after being shot several times in the midsection by Westchester County police.
Ridley was fatally shot in January of 2008 as he tried to break up a fight involving a homeless man in White Plains. Ridley confronted the man, who pulled the handgun from Ridley's waistband and it went off. Ridley retrieved the gun and was shot by county officers after he allegedly failed to respond to a command to put it down.
A Westchester County grand jury previously cleared the four officers of any criminal wrongdoing.
Civil rights attorney Jonathan Lovett claims this was a racially-motivated execution, and that DiFiore determined that to cover it up would better serve her politically. Lovett says Oliveri, in an attempt to cover up the killing, retrieved Ridley's badge from the sidewalk and secreted it so that it could be later discovered in Ridley's automobile. That point was a circumstance later used to back up the claim that Ridley did not identify himself as a policeman.
Lovett and civil rights groups are now calling for DiFiore's resignation.
DiFiore issued the following statement:
"This latest law suit filed by attorney Jonathan Lovett contains allegations that are complete and total lies.
To allege, as Mr. Lovett does, that a Westchester County police officer committed a brutal execution in front of three other police officers and dozens of civilian witnesses and that these officers along with the entire criminal justice system then conspired to cover up such acts is outrageous, -- even for Mr. Lovett.
These purposeful fabrications are flatly refuted by the videotapes that were shown to the grand jury and were reviewed by members of Detective Ridley's family and their lawyer.
For Mr. Lovett to exploit Detective Ridley's tragic death in this way, to further some sort of perverse personal agenda, is heartless and beyond all decency."
Police commissioner Thomas Belfiore issued the following statement:
"The allegations that Detective Ridley was executed and that a cover-up was conducted are false, outrageous and insulting. To accuse these officers of such behavior is an unethical manipulation of a terrible tragedy, a tragedy that has caused suffering to these officers as well as the Ridley family."
Deputy county executive Susan Tolchin also responded to the allegations in a statement:
"This lawsuit in and of itself is a despicable crime against the people of Westchester who know the truth. It serves only one person, Jonathan Lovett, who continues to file unethical and malicious actions against Westchester County for his own political agenda. Of the 29 lawsuits he has filed against the county, none have been successful, but have cost taxpayers more than $2 million in legal costs. It is a disgrace."
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