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Mayor Sees No NYPD Misconduct Trend in 2 Deaths

May 26, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Sunday that the deaths of two unarmed New Yorkers during police raids are not signs of a trend, but added, "We won't tolerate mistakes."

Bloomberg was responding to questions about Alberta Spruill, a city worker who died after police mistakenly raided her Harlem apartment May 16, and Ousmane Zango, a West African immigrant who was fatally shot by police in a Chelsea storage facility Thursday.

"I don't think there's any evidence that there's a trend in police misconduct," Bloomberg said before marching in a Memorial Day parade in Queens. "There were a couple of incidents that should never have happened."

Bloomberg said Zango's shooting was under investigation, "but it would appear that something was done wrong, clearly" in the Spruill case.

"We will not tolerate to the extent humanly possible any kinds of discrimination," Bloomberg said. "We won't tolerate mistakes."

Also Sunday, civil rights leaders held a news conference in front of the storage building where Zango was shot.

"There's a question mark that stands over the Police Department when, in a seven-day period, two unarmed civilians are lost to this city at large," said Lt. Eric Adams, who heads the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.

Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer and former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the deaths demonstrate the need for an independent special prosecutor to investigate police misconduct.

"The police commissioner says there will be an investigation," Siegel said. "But years ago we all learned that the police cannot adequately investigate the police."

In the Spruill case, officers burst in with a flash grenade and handcuffed Spruill, 57, before realizing they had the wrong apartment. Spruill later died from cardiac arrest.

The circumstances of the Zango shooting remain murky.

The shooting came after a task force raided two units in the massive, 5,000-room storage building as part of an investigation into street sales of counterfeit compact discs, investigators said.

An officer identified in published reports as Bryan Conroy told investigators that Zango tried to take his gun during a skirmish.

Zango had no police record and made his living repairing African art in a unit he rented in the building.

An autopsy determined that Zango was shot once in the chest, once in the abdomen and once in the upper back. He also suffered a graze wound to his right arm.

Conroy, who has been on the police force for three years, was placed on modified duty.

The shooting brought back memories of the death of African immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was killed in a hail of gunfire by four white officers who said they mistook his wallet for a weapon.

The officers were cleared of murder and other charges in a state criminal trial in 2000, and the case inflamed racial tensions in New York.

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