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#4721: New York Police Officer Cleared in Shooting Death (fwd)


Thursday July 27 6:26 PM ET
 New York Police Officer Cleared in Shooting Death  By Jeanne King

  NEW YORK (Reuters) - A grand jury cleared an undercover police
 officer Thursday of criminal liability for the March shooting death of
an unarmed black man in a killing that sparked a political crisis for
crime-fighting Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Manhattan District Attorney
Robert Morgenthau said Detective Anthony Vasquez ``did not intentionally
pull the trigger and, in fact, does not know how the discharge came
about'' in a struggle outside a nightclub March 16 in which off-duty
security guard Patrick Dorismond was killed.Dorismond's death was the
third high-profile shooting of an unarmed black man in New York in 13 
months, fueling long-standing charges of excessive use of force and
racism in the New York Police Department.Giuliani and Police
Commissioner Howard Safir were criticized for an unsympathetic response
to Dorismond's shooting when they released the sealed juvenile arrest
record of the dead man and portrayed him as an aggressive troublemaker.
Giuliani, then the likely Republican candidate in a U.S. Senate race
against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, saw his standing among voters
drop sharply in the polls. He later admitted that he had made a mistake
and said he should have expressed sympathy for the man's family.
Giuliani dropped out of the race in April after being diagnosed with
prostate cancer. The grand jury investigation ``has determined that
Detective Anthony Vasquez does not bear criminal liability in connection
with Mr. Dorismond's death,'' Morgenthau said in a statement.The
prosecutor said Dorismond, 26, a father of two, was killed by one shot
to the chest outside a Manhattan bar in a struggle with Vasquez, an
officer in the undercover narcotics division who was conducting a
``buy-and-bust'' operation and had approached Dorismond to buy drugs.  
``Vasquez said he and Dorismond struggled over the gun, they were
grappling with the gun,'' Morgenthau said. ``Dorismond was twisting the
gun, and suddenly the gun went off. Vasquez says he  doesn't know where
the gun was pointed when it discharged.''``The evidence shows that
(Dorismond) lost his temper and he hit someone who tried to buy drugs
from him, but no one, including Detective Vasquez, believes that Mr.
Dorismond realized that the men he was confronting were police
officers,'' the district attorney said.Giuliani urged New Yorkers on
Thursday to remain calm after the grand jury's verdict and said he felt
``terrible'' about the case. ``This is a great tragedy. ... There has
been loss of life,'' the mayor said,adding that he also sympathized with
New York's police officers. Johnnie Cochran, who is representing the
Dorismond family, said through his partner Phil Damashek that he was
extremely disappointed and at a loss to understand ``how the district
attorney could have  failed to obtain an indictment,''`The failure to
obtain this indictment, coupled with the remarks of the mayor and the
police commissioner in trying to vilify the victim, sends the wrong
message to the people,'' Damashek quoted Cochran as saying. Dorismond's
family filed a $100 million wrongful death claim against Giuliani and
other city officials, seeking $50 million for Dorismond's pain and
suffering, violations of his civil rights and wrongful death and $50
million for his survivors' loss of his services. Damashek said he and
Cochran would ``try to obtain action from the U.S. attorney's office in
New York based on civil rights violations in Patrick's death.''