Police Abuse

NYPD Officer Found Not Guilty In Road Rage Killing

Case marks the first trial using Gov. Cuomo's order giving the state attorney general power to prosecute officers accused of killing unarmed civilians.

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cop, victim

The New York attorney general's first prosecution of a police officer for a fatal shooting ended yesterday with an acquittal.

While he driving home from his shift one day last year, Officer Wayne Isaacs of the New York Police Department (NYPD) shot and killed the unarmed Delrawn Small in a road rage incident. According to a passenger in Small's car, Small believed Isaacs had cut him off and exited his car at a stop light to confront him. Video eventually revealed that Isaacs shot Small as soon as he walked up to Isaacs' car window. That contradicted what New York police said they initially believed, based largely on Isaacs' own statement: that Small had reached in through the window to punch Isaacs.

Police insisted the video did not provide a complete picture of what happened, but Isaacs was placed on "modified duty"—that is, his gun and badge were taken from him but he still got paid—when the video surfaced a week after the incident. Once he was officially indicted for murder and manslaughter last September, he was suspended with pay.

While the NYPD launched an internal investigation into the incident, unnamed high-ranking police officials insisted to local media that the shooting was "absolutely" justified. The results of that investigation remains unclear more than a year after it was launched.

What is clear is that the facts already known ought to be enough for NYPD brass to decide to terminate Isaacs' employment. For example, when Isaacs called 911 he did not report to dispatchers that he had shot somebody. Instead, he identified himself as a police officer, said he was attacked, and then requested an ambulance, later admitting to the dispatcher he was not the victim.

The lack of transparency in the initial 911 call ought to suffice for a termination with cause. Cops who can't be trusted to be honest about things that are undeniable (the responding paramedics would not have missed the fact that Isaacs shot Small) can't be trusted to be honest about things that they could conceivably cover up.

And the most effective way to reduce police violence is to remove police officers who are prone to violence. Fatally shooting someone during a road rage incident is a pretty strong indicator of that kind of propensity. Unfortunately, state civil service laws and provisions in the police union contract prevent the NYPD from firing officers on such grounds.

When New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requested the authority to prosecute police officers who use fatal force in the course of performing their duties, he argued—correctly—that his office would have less of a conflict of interest in prosecution than district attorney's offices that have to work regularly with the police they investigate and prosecute. In 2015 the governor gave him the authority to pursue such prosecutions.

The acquittal of Isaacs, who killed an unarmed man while he was off-duty, does not inspire confidence that Schneiderman's office will have much success securing convictions for on-duty killings, when juries tend to give the police even more of a benefit of the doubt.

The attorney general's failure also highlights the importance of pushing for broader reforms. Relying solely on the ability of the criminal justice system to punish its own is wishful thinking. Police departments like the NYPD need to be able to make personnel decisions based on the qualifications of the personnel.

Of note, too, is the futility of strict gun control laws like those in New York City that exempt law enforcement officers even when they are not on the job. (Virtually all gun control laws exempt off-duty and often even retired officers.) They are just as capable of killing after all, and are often allowed to do so with impunity—a dangerous combination.

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  1. This is getting old.

    *goes back to sharpening pitch fork*

  2. Isaacs was placed on “modified duty”?that is, his gun and badge were taken from him but he still got paid?when the video surfaced a week after the incident. Once he was officially indicted for murder and manslaughter last September, he was suspended with pay.

    That poor officer really got put through the ringer, didn’t he.

    1. Didn’t you read the part about them taking his badge and gun away? I mean without those, how was he supposed to push people around and murder them with impunity if they didn’t comply to his satisfaction?

      1. I’m sure he just does it anyway. Any victim that calls the cops will get the criminal treatment: Searched, ran for warrants, and scolded for wasting the cops’ time.

        1. Don’t forget drug tested. No better way to undermine a victim’s credibility than a positive response from a loyal drug-sniffing dog or super-reliable field test kit.

  3. Cops who can’t be trusted to be honest about things that are undeniable…

    An honest cop would be drummed out of the department before they knew what happened. Cops lie about everything. Ask a cop for directions, or the time, and you will get a lie. They lie on reports, in court, they lie about everything. They are trained to be so arrogant as to believe that they determine what reality is by their words. And it’s because the entire government will back them up, no matter how blatant the lie is. If a cop says two plus two is five, textbooks will have to be rewritten.

    1. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, “Every word that comes out of their mouths is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

  4. Now that the criminal prosecution is finished, with predictable results, it’s time for a civil suit against the man who at times acts as a police officer. The suit is for wrongful death. Should be a slam-dunk.
    When the suit is against the man, not the “police officer”, there is no qualified immunity, police union assistance at court or government lawyers for his defense. It’s man against man within common law and without “legal” interference.

    1. I hope they get civil trial out of the way quickly so he can spend time looking for the real killer.

      1. Racism is the real killer. Don’t believe me? Just ask an expert. From the ABC News article

        But in most of the high-profile cases, the officers involved have been white, unlike in this case.

        That doesn’t mean issues of race aren’t playing a role, in terms of perceptions of who’s seen as a threat, said Lester Spence, a political science and Africana studies professor at John Hopkins University.

        “It’s about attitudes about subjects, attitudes about black bodies,” he said.

        So even when there are no white bodies in the room, it is all about white racism.

        1. When “high-profile” = “attracts media attention”, I guess they can draw any conclusion they want.

  5. Officer Wayne Isaacs of the New York Police Department (NYPD) shot and killed the unarmed black man Delrawn Small

    FTFY. (Wish I could fix the squirrels.)

    1. Black-on-black crime!

  6. Nuuuuutpunch, you don’t have to put on the blue light,
    Nuuuuutpunch, those days are over, you don’t have to turn on your bodycam tonight,
    Nutpunch, you don’t have to feel that stress tonight,
    Walk the streets for a pension, you don’t cate if it’s wrong or right.

  7. What is clear is that the facts already known ought to be enough for NYPD brass to decide to terminate Isaacs’ employment.

    You don’t become “the seventh biggest army in the world” by handing out a lot of pink slips.

  8. And the most effective way to reduce police violence is to remove police officers who are prone to violence.

    Uh-huh. And, who’s trying to reduce police violence?

    1. No one.

  9. Why am I not surprised.

    Some animals are more equal than others.

  10. Since Officer Isaacs was not on duty on in uniform at the time of the incident, his employment by the NYPD should have been excluded from testimony. I wonder if the prosecution tried this tactic. If not, I have to wonder if the prosecution was trying for a conviction.

    1. The prosecution, judge, and defense are all on the same team. That is why cops are never convicted of anything. Ever.

      1. I have no knowledge of how the prosecution handled the case other than what I have read here. But that is enough to let me know that they never had any intention of getting a conviction. Because top-level Prosecutor’s office’s always get convictions. Their conviction rate is way over 90%.

        And yet when they try to prosecute police officers who are caught on video tape murdering people in road rage incidents or neighborhood disputes, somehow they seem incapable of getting a conviction more than 20% of the time. And when Prosecuting police officers for acts committed in the line of duty, that drops below 5%.

        I can guarantee that if this had been one of the hit-and-run regulars there would not have been a trial. Because the prosecutor would have brought forth enough charges to ensure that if you managed to escape the death penalty you would never see the outside of a jail again. Yet somehow they did not do that in this case.

        1. It’s like a show trial where the defendant has already been found innocent rather than guilty.

    1. Interesting observation.

      It makes one wonder how many people at the next #blm rally will know the name Delrawn Small. They certainly don’t know the name of Daniel Shaver, even though police shot him 5 times in the back while he was on his hands and knees begging for his life in a hotel hallway in a scene that makes hands up don’t shoot look like model behavior. That one was even caught on camera. But because we must preserve the right to a fair trial, you are not allowed to see that video. Funny how that works.

  11. It is interesting to note that this story is – and has long been – completely absent from local news media.

  12. Too bad the protected perp didn’t shoot the mayor’s dog. Jury selection would have been… waitaminnit! Was this a crony bench trial or was there a jury? It this the sort of detail to overlook, Ed?

    1. It was a jury trial. And he was only charged with manslaughter.

    2. It was a jury trial. And he was only charged with manslaughter.

      1. Sorry. They charged him with both manslaughter and murder. I misread it the first time.

        He actually had an interesting defense. He testified that the victim struck him through the open car window and he feared for his life, thinking that it was someone who recognized him from an earlier arrest or traffic stop.

        So despite the presence of a video which did not corroborate his version of being struck through the open window, the story of why he feared for his life seems to have won the day.

        1. So if a police officer experiences the slightest fear (the other person may have a weapon, the other person’s dog may be vicious, the other person may know somehow he’s a cop), it’s okay for the cop to blast them away.

          But if a civilian experiences fear, they still have to be responsible for armed assault on other people or their pets?

          Got it.

          1. You are just now coming to that realization?

          2. Even if the Police officer is in civilian clothes, off duty, in a civilian vehicle AND instigates a fight… They still have their 007 licenses.

  13. I need a better example than this to get my outrage meter moving.

    If you exit your car to confront someone who “cut you off” you are a moron.

    Surely there are more sympathetic cases to highlight.

    1. IIRC the guy got blown away long before he became any sort of “threat” to the murderer.

      Try again.

    2. The case for the use of deadly force against someone who is not clearly aiming a weapon, or even holding one for that matter, while you are sitting inside of a car with the engine running and the door closed is pretty weak.

      I do not believe that you would escape prosecution were you to be placed in a similar situation. You might get away with saying you feared that he was about to attack if you were to speed away and accidentally clipped him with the car as you pulled around traffic. But I don’t see how you’re going to get away with saying that it was self-defense that led you to kill him were you to start shooting on first approach. Particularly if you claimed that he was punching you through the window as a justification but video evidence proves otherwise.

      In the legal world they use phrases like “evidence of a guilty mind” to describe that sort of behavior.

    3. “”If you exit your car to confront someone who “cut you off” you are a moron.””

      I’ve had deadly force classes and being confronted by a moron has never been acceptable reason to use deadly force.

      You would think a professional should know better. The fact that he lied about what happened means he knew the real story would not be good enough to justify the shooting. Yet he got a pass any way.

  14. Problem is that there are too many cops with too much time on their hands-when they are bored, bad things happen, and since violent crimes have declined so much, they look to bust people for just about anything. We probably could lay off half the cops in the US and nothing bad would happen.

    1. Nothing bad would happen? What about all the lost revenue from the enforcement of street signs?

  15. Modified duties? Suspension with pay? Termination for cause?

    Isn’t the penalty for aggravated murder usually life in prison, or the death penalty?

    1. Only on tv.

    2. You’re thinking of punishments for civilians. This story is about a cop.

  16. ‘You’re killin’ me smalls!’

    1. Oh, and is anyone else surprised than an NYPD officer actually managed hit their intended target for once? I mean, sure, point blank range and all that but still that is no mean feat for the NYPD.

      1. I thought guns were banned in NYC… oh wait, that’s just for the subjects.

  17. I don’t know what the fuck happens in New York but when they seat juries in Louisiana where I live the entire jury pool is made to watch a propaganda film that portrays police officers and military members doing heroic shit to secure our liberty. The idea being that you should take your jury service seriously because these heroes sacrificed everything for this opportunity. Surprise, surpriseban hour watching the movie every motherfucker polled says they trust police officers more than other witnesses. It’s a sick game they play down here. The trials are rigged.

    1. The fact you live in Louisiana suddenly makes so many of your posts make more sense.

  18. Let’s say Isaacs misses and Small is armed. Small pulls his gun and shoots Isaacs because he genuinely fears for his life. Verdict?

  19. Stories like this, and circumstances or events that happen like this, are reasons why I don’t feel bad when police officers are killed. (And I have family that are officers for all the “what about the loved ones left behind” crowd.) Cops don’t feel bad when innocents are killed. So why should we feel bad when a few immcocent coos die.

    1. Innocent*

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