CYPRESS HILLS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- An NYPD officer was found not guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter after he was accused of fatally shooting a man in an apparent case of road rage.
Officer Wayne Isaacs was acquitted of the charges in the 2016 death of Delrawn Small.
Surveillance video appeared to show Isaacs, who was off duty at the time, shooting Small as he approached his car in East New York in July 2016. Authorities believe Isaacs and Smalls, a father of three, were engaged in a road rage incident for several blocks.
Isaacs took the stand in his own defense last week, with his attorneys arguing he acted in self defense. He maintained that Small punched him through the window, while the defense claimed the attack never happened and that Isaacs opened fire without even identifying himself as an officer.
"He took everything from us, and my niece and nephew have no father," Small's sister Victoria Davis said. "He was like our father, and we don't have him. And I don't know what that looks like. And I don't know what life is going to be like. But Wayne Isaacs went home to his family, and he killed someone. Delrawn didn't kill anyone. Delrawn is not a murderer. He is. So why did he go home with his family, and Delrawn will never come home to us?"
This was the first trial prosecuted by the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was appointed as special prosecutor in an executive order signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo for cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers.
"We are disappointed by the verdict, but we respect the jury's determination and thank them for their service," Schneiderman said. "I also want to thank the family of Delrawn Small for their courage and perseverance in the face of tragedy. My office will continue to investigate these cases without fear or favor and follow the facts wherever they may lead."
Isaacs faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Small's family released the following statement after the verdict:
"Nothing can bring Delrawn back or fill the void in our hearts and lives from our brother being taken from us by this senseless murder. We are devastated and outraged that the jury failed to ensure justice by not holding NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs accountable for murdering our brother. What Wayne Isaacs did that night - immediately shooting and killing our brother as he approached his car and leaving him to bleed out and die, when he had so many other options - was murder, in cold blood. It is dangerous that once again a police officer is being treated as if they are above the law. Today, the justice system made a statement that it does not equally value Black life and the life of our brother Delrawn Small. The facts of this case were always clear and the importance of having an independent prosecutor from the Attorney General's office should not be overlooked. Yet, our society must confront the problematic issues related to race and power that lead grand juries and juries to fail to hold officers fully accountable when they kill people of color. The fact that Officer Isaacs was Black does not diminish the systemic issues of racialized fear and the criminalization of Blackness that allow a jury to consider the killing of an unarmed Black man by a police officer as justified. We heard it in the defense's case that sought to paint our brother, the victim, as someone to be feared, playing into a historic, racialized fear of Black people in this country. This jury's failure is a reflection of the persistent problems with racism in our society, and our justice system will continue to serve injustices until that is confronted. While we continue to mourn the loss of our brother, we continue to fight for justice for him and all who are brutalized and whose lives are unjustly taken by police and fail to receive justice.
"We now call on Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner O'Neill to immediately fire Officer Wayne Isaacs from the police department. An officer, who is so trigger-happy that he immediately shoots not once, not twice but three times and kills a civilian simply approaching his car, is a threat to public safety. The fact that Officer Isaacs failed to protect public safety - shooting Delrawn three times and then failing to administer emergency care or even alert 911 to the fact that he shot him, which led to Delrawn bleeding out on the street and dying - is a clear indication that he doesn't deserve the responsibility of being a police officer. The lawsuits against Isaacs related to misconduct and brutality are just additional evidence of why he is no longer a credible officer of public safety."
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch also released a statement, saying, "There are no winners or losers in a trial like this whenever a life is lost under any circumstances. We are grateful to the jury for weighing all of the evidence in this case and for arriving at a proper and just verdict. No police officer wants to carry the burden of having killed a person under any conditions. But unfortunately, there is no script for police officers who have to take action when they are presented with dangerous circumstances either on or off duty."