N E W Y O R K, July 28, 2000 -- A grand jury declined to indict an undercovernarcotics officer Thursday in the March slaying of an unarmed blackman that aggravated tensions between minorities and New Yorkpolice.
The decision cleared Detective Anthony Vasquez of any criminalwrongdoing for firing a fatal shot into Patrick Dorismond’s chest.
The undercover officer had approached Dorismond, a 26-year-oldsecurity guard, near Madison Square Garden and asked where he couldpurchase marijuana. The exchange led to a fight.
“What the grand jury found is that on the basis of theevidence, nobody could be charged with a crime,” ManhattanDistrict Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
Dorismond’s parents and sister, joined by the Rev. Al Sharptonat an emotional news conference, called on the Justice Departmentto take over the case.
‘You Just Took Everything’
Dorismond’s mother wept and denounced Mayor Rudolph Giuliani,who like Morgenthau offered condolences to the family, but defendedthe grand jury decision.
“Mr. Mayor ... you just took everything from my son,” shesaid.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said her officeroutinely reviews such cases, and would look at Dorismond’s death“to determine whether there were any violations of the federalcriminal civil rights laws.”
Dorismond was killed just three weeks after the acquittal offour officers in the Bronx slaying of Amadou Diallo, anotherunarmed black man.
The case took on added significance when Giuliani, then stillrunning for Senate, set off a furor by publicly releasingDorismond’s sealed juvenile criminal record. The mayor alsopublicized a toxicology report showing Dorismond had marijuana inhis system when he died.
Decision Enraged Family, Communtiy
Giuliani’s decision to go public with the records infuriated thedead man’s family, black activists and the city’s Haitiancommunity. Dorismond was of Haitian descent.
Tensions ran so high that Dorismond’s funeral broke into afree-for-all, with 27 people arrested and 23 officers injured. TheDorismond family also has filed a $100 million civil claim againstthe city.
Giuliani said after the grand jury decision that he wanted to“extend my sympathy and my prayers to the people most affected bythis: the Dorismond family, who will have a very hard timeaccepting this.”
According to Vasquez and his partner, the incident began whenDorismond, who was with a friend, Kevin Kaiser, threw a punch atthe second officer during their confrontation outside a bar.
Vasquez said that as he came to his partner’s aid, he heard oneof the two men scuffling with the officer saying, “Get his gun!”Vasquez claimed that he shouted “Police! Police!” before pullinghis weapon.
When Dorismond grabbed at the gun, it went off and struck him inthe chest with a single bullet, the officer claimed.
Kaiser, 22, insisted that the officers threw the first punch andDorismond was only defending himself. Kaiser also alleged thatneither officer identified himself as police.
Morgenthau, questioned about whether the black victim of apolice shooting could receive justice from a grand jury, said thepanel was “racially mixed ... took its duties seriously andreached a fair result.”