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#2964: Detective in Fatal Shooting Is Said to Be Misjudged, Too (fwd)


March 23, 2000 Detective in Fatal Shooting Is Said to Be Misjudged, Too

In a week of characterizations by people who hardly know him,Anthony
Vasquez, the police detective who shot and killed an unarmed man on a
Midtown Manhattan street last week, has been portrayed by some as hot
tempered, quick to draw his gun to resolve a problem. And there is, at
least on its face, evidence to suggest such a profile.Detective
Vasquez's police record shows that, while still in training at the
police academy, he shot a dog in his yard in Shirley, N.Y., that he
pulled his gun in a bar fight in Pennsylvania, and that his wife at   
the time made a domestic-abuse complaint against him in 1997,taking out
an order of protection.  But colleagues and family members -- including
his former wife -- argue that using those snapshots of his life and
career to create a portrait of his character and competence would be a
mistake. To them, Detective Vasquez is a smart veteran of the street, an
officer with no record of brutality on the job and one who has
distinguished himself during his career for his ability to avoid trouble
and defuse dangerous encounters. In its insistence that isolated
incidents not be used to mount a broad indictment, the defense of the
29-year-old detective echoes the complaint made by the family of the man
he killed, Patrick M. Dorismond. Mr. Dorismond's family has angrily
denounced the mayor and the Police Department for the release of
Mr.      Dorismond's minor criminal record after the shooting. He's
being portrayed as a trigger-happy wife-beater, and that's just so far
from the truth," said his former wife, Jennifer A. Vasquez, 31. She has
known the detective since she first came to New York from California
nine years ago. For Detective Vasquez, who has spent much of his police
career dipping in and out of doorways in seedy neighborhoods in an     
attempt to remain inconspicuous, the events of last week not only      
placed him at the center of a deadly incident, but also placed him     
under intense public scrutiny. He faces a grand jury investigation into
his actions on Eighth Avenue in front the Wakamba Cocktail Lounge,
where, during a quick and chaotic struggle, he shot Mr. Dorismond in the
chest. The scuffle began after another undercover detective asked Mr.  
Dorismond for drugs. Detective Vasquez's lawyer says that Mr. Dorismond
threw the first punch and that his client fired accidentally, after Mr.
Dorismond lunged for his pistol. Detective Vasquez is facing tough
questions about why he had his gun out and why he and the other
undercover officers did not withdraw from the confrontation. And there
are divergent versions of how the struggle began, with the detectives
saying Mr. Dorismond threw the first punch, and the dead man's friend
saying the police struck first. Detective Vasquez has not spoken
publicly about what took place that night, other than through his
lawyer. Interviews with his supervisors, his colleagues and former wife,
though, offer a picture of a decent, dedicated officer, who used his
wits to talk his way out of trouble. "He is a very level-headed guy, a
very passive guy," said Detective Felix Pedroza, an undercover officer
who works with him. "He's obviously been in many more dangerous
situations than the one the other night, and he is always able to talk
his way out."In his five years on the force, Detective Vasquez had one
civilian complaint against him, for discourtesy, and that was found     
unsubstantiated. Some neighbors called him polite and helpful. His   
former wife says that the order of protection resulted from a heated  
verbal argument that had not involved violence. Despite their divorce,
she said she regarded him as a friend. The son of a welder, Mr. Vasquez
grew up in Shirley, on Long Island, and graduated from Longwood Senior
High School in 1989. He worked several jobs, in a hardware store, for a
food distribution company and for a mattress store, before joining the
Police Department in June 1995. He graduated from the Police Academy in
 March of the following year and worked for about nine months in     
the 103rd Precinct in Queens, patrolling the streets of South Jamaica.

By January 1997, he had been transferred to the Tracer Unit in the
33rd Precinct in Washington Heights, a uniformed narcotics team     
that saturates neighborhoods after intensive undercover drug operations
and focuses on quality-of-life violations. During 15 months there, he
made more than 40 arrests, all but 5 for misdemeanors, and in April 1998
he was transferred to Manhattan North Narcotics Division, which has been
at the forefront of the city's increased efforts to use arrests of
low-level drug sellers to lower crime. He took part in 200 to 250 drug
arrests, actually buying the drugs himself on as many as 100 occasions,
said Detective Pedroza. He was transferred to the Manhattan Gang
Investigative Division, the unit involved in the shooting, and was
promoted to detective on Oct.26, 1999.