No officers indicted in Harlem shooting

The News Leader

March 4, 2011 5:45:28 PM PST
A grand jury has decided that four New York City police officers shouldn't be charged with any crimes in a deadly shooting stemming from a fight that broke out as a crowd was leaving a block party, two people familiar with the investigation said Friday.

The grand jury declined to indict the four officers who fired 46 bullets during a chaotic chain of events that unfolded Aug. 8, said the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the proceeding. The Manhattan district attorney's office, which led the probe, declined to comment.

With the officers no longer facing charges, it was not clear Friday whether anyone would be indicted. The same grand jury decided earlier this week not to indict the only man who had been arrested in the aftermath of the shooting.

The head of the officers' union applauded what he called a grand jury decision based "on the facts of the case and not on fiction from the streets."

"If we are to do our work effectively, police officers must be reassured that any judgment of their actions will be made on a full and thorough review of facts and nothing more," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement.

The police department had no immediate comment. The officers - Douglas Brightman, Michael Tedeschi, Thomas Cozart and Sgt. Paul Kerrigan - have been on desk duty during the investigation.

The grand jury has spent about six months investigating the shooting. Around 3 a.m. last August, police tried to disperse a crowd of hundreds as people were leaving a Harlem block party that had run hours past its scheduled end.

A fight broke out between acquaintances Luis Soto and Angel Alvarez, authorities say. It escalated into gunfire as the two grappled over a weapon, and police returned with a barrage of bullets, authorities say. When it was over, 21-year-old Soto was killed by a police bullet; Alvarez was shot at least 15 times, and two officers and three bystanders were hurt, prosecutors say.

Police maintain Alvarez shot at police, triggering the police fire. But Alvarez says he wrestled the gun away from Soto to protect himself and did not shoot the gun at anyone.

Prosecutors announced in court Wednesday that grand jurors declined to indict Alvarez. He was freed after being held since August on weapons-possession charges.

Alvarez and wounded bystanders Antoine Brown, Larry Garlick and Cedric Simmons have either sued the city or filed notices of plans to do so. While claims are separate, Alvarez and some of the others say police mishandled the situation and didn't exercise enough discretion in firing their weapons.

"Although the grand jury declined to indict the officers that shot (Alvarez), we believe that they should be held fully responsible for the tremendous injury they caused him," said one of his lawyers, Matthew Galluzzo.

Police have yet to begin their own review of the shooting. They were waiting on the results of the criminal probe.