Woman sues over Empire State shooting

January 22, 2013 2:25:12 PM PST
A North Carolina college student hit by police gunfire during a shooting outside the Empire State Building argued in a lawsuit Tuesday that the police department and the officers involved need better training to deal with such confrontations in the future.

Nine bystanders, including 32-year-old Chenin Duclos, were hit by police bullets, ricochets and fragments when two officers fired at a man suspected of gunning down a former co-worker outside the Manhattan landmark.

Duclos said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court that the department and the officers were "grossly negligent" in the way they handled the shooting - firing 16 shots on a crowded street outside one of the world's largest tourist attractions.

"No warning. No. Just chaos very quickly, gunfire, people running, screaming, people on the ground," said Chenin Duclos, a shooting victim.

Chenin Duclos will live with those haunting memories of what began as beautiful August day outside the Empire State Building.

As she and a friend crossed 34th Street on the way to Penn Station she remembers when she got hit.

"I felt some sort of a punch in my hip, next thing I'm on the ground," Duclos said.

Moments earlier, Jeffrey Johnson was suspected by police of shooting to death a former co-worker with whom he had a dispute.

Johnson is then picked up on security cameras outside the Empire State Building.

As two officers approached Johnson, he turned and aimed a 45 caliber weapon at them.

The officers draw their guns and fire 16 shots, seven of them striking Johnson who fell to the sidewalk and later dies.

In that hail of bullets, Chenin falls seriously wounded.

"The bullet shattered the neck of the femur," Duclos said.

After extensive medical treatment and ongoing recovery Chenin, who now walks with a noticeable limp, says she endures painful physical therapy, an occupation ironically she is studying.

But she worries she might not be able to realize her dream of working in that field.

"There is a lot of fear. You know I am putting a lot of time and energy into this education and I love this work but you do need your body working in its max capacity," Duclos said.

Duclos and her attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and two individual officers alleging gross negligence.

"How they chased the individual, how they confronted the individual and how they failed to take cover, everything they did was absolutely wrong," said Amy Marion, attorney.

In response, City Corporation counsel Michael Cardoza said, "The state's highest court has recognized that police officers' split-second decisions to use deadly force must be protected from this kind of second-guessing."

Duclos believes it is a necessary part of her healing.

"Obviously there is attention that needs to be given to this," Duclos said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said they believe the officers followed proper protocol.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.


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