OFFICER WHO WAS KILLED TRIED TO BREAK UP A FIGHT

Alan Zale for The New York Times

An off-duty Mount Vernon police officer was fatally shot by Westchester police officers in White Plains on Friday.

Published: January 27, 2008
The off-duty Mount Vernon police officer who was shot and killed by Westchester County police officers on Friday tried to break up a fight between two men and was trying to arrest one of them when he was fatally wounded, the authorities and two witnesses said on Saturday.

My 9 News/WWOR-TV

Christopher Ridley, 23.

The officer who was killed, Christopher A. Ridley, 23, was off duty and not in uniform when he witnessed a “violent, aggravated assault” shortly before 5 p.m. near Court Street and Martine Avenue in downtown White Plains, outside the district offices of the Westchester County Department of Social Services, said Frank G. Straub, the commissioner of public safety in White Plains.

Commissioner Straub and other officials provided few new details about the shooting in a news conference on Saturday. But two witnesses, a homeless couple who gave their names only as Cathy and Brian, said Officer Ridley had tried to break up a scuffle between two men and then failed to drop his gun when the Westchester officers arrived and ordered him to do so.

The couple was outside the social services building, at 85 Court Street, before the shooting. The building until recently was the site of a county drop-in center for homeless men, and homeless people still congregate near there, waiting for a van that comes at 5 p.m. to take them to shelters.

The witnesses said the events leading to Officer Ridley’s shooting began when a homeless man began beating up another man. Officer Ridley emerged from his vehicle to try to stop the fight. He briefly chased the homeless man, and the two began fighting outside the social services building. Officer Ridley’s gun, which a third witness said the officer grabbed from his vehicle and tucked into his waistband, fell to the ground during the scuffle and discharged, with the bullet striking concrete, the homeless couple said.

The gunshot brought county police officers to the scene, and by the time they arrived, Officer Ridley had picked up his gun, the couple said.

“They told him put the gun down three times, and he wouldn’t put the gun down,” said Cathy, 44. She said that Officer Ridley might have been disoriented from the fight and unable to hear the officers’ commands. “He might have been dazed,” she said.

At that point, Officer Ridley was shot; it was not clear how many Westchester County officers had come to the scene or fired their weapons. The officials at the news conference refused to take questions, and they did not release the names of the officers involved or confirm any of the witnesses’ accounts. “We will continue to interview witnesses, and when more information becomes available, we will provide that to you,” Commissioner Straub said.

The authorities identified the man that Officer Ridley was trying to arrest as Anthony Jacobs, 39. They did not say whether Mr. Jacobs was in custody on Saturday.

Earlier, at a news conference outside the White Plains police headquarters, the Rev. Al Sharpton stood with members of Officer Ridley’s family and called for an investigation to determine whether the shooting was justified.

“Just as we are calling on the community not to rush to judgment, the police should not rush to judgment,” Mr. Sharpton said as he stood next to Stanley Ridley, Officer Ridley’s father. “There ought not to be a rush to judgment on either side.”

The authorities have not identified the races of the county officers who were involved in the confrontation. Officer Ridley was black, and Mr. Sharpton said: “I do not know if race played any issue at all as of yet. I do not know. We don’t rule it out or in.”

The chaotic scene unfolded on Friday in a bustling section of White Plains, where serious crimes like murder, robberies and assaults have dropped to their lowest levels in decades.

“I think it was simply a case where a police officer who was in the immediate area is witnessing an altercation in the street, and he did what every good policeman should do, which is to get involved and assist,” said Mayor Joseph M. Delfino of White Plains. “And after that, everything went bad.” He added, “This was a tragedy.”

Mr. Jacobs is known by workers in the area for wandering the streets and rummaging through garbage. Keith Stewart, 47, who works as a medical assistant for a chiropractor, said he knew him only as “Twin.” Mr. Stewart said Mr. Jacobs got the nickname because he had a twin brother. The brother died, he said, and Twin had not been the same since.

The New York Times

“He’d talk to himself,” Mr. Stewart said. “He needs help. He needs to be in a hospital.”

The authorities said Mr. Jacobs’s address was 25 Operations Drive in Westchester County. That address is listed as the site of a homeless shelter in Valhalla run by the Volunteers of America.

Mr. Jacobs spent five years at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining for a 1998 felony burglary conviction and was released on parole in 2004, according to state criminal records.

Westchester County police officials and the Westchester County district attorney, Janet DiFiore, asked the White Plains police to conduct the investigation into Officer Ridley’s death because of the county officers’ role in the shooting.

David Chong, the police commissioner in Mount Vernon, which borders the Bronx in southern Westchester, said he was confident that the White Plains police and the district attorney’s office would conduct “a thorough and unbiased investigation.”

Officer Ridley joined the Mount Vernon Police Department on Jan. 9, 2006. He was assigned to the patrol division.

He was remembered by fellow officers and friends as an enthusiastic and inquisitive policeman who was a disc jockey in his free time and was active at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, where his father worked as the head custodian and Officer Ridley served as a youth mentor.

The officer’s father did not speak to reporters at Mr. Sharpton’s news conference.

Friends of the officer said he was born in Mount Vernon, and after his parents divorced, he lived with his mother in New Jersey. At 17, he moved back to Mount Vernon and had been living with his father in a two-story house on South 11th Avenue.

Patrick Jean-Jerome, a Mount Vernon police officer, said the CD’s that Officer Ridley mixed and burned had become so popular in the department that there was a waiting list for copies.

The day before the shooting, Officer Jean-Jerome and Officer Ridley were on patrol together when a call came in about an assault suspect. Officer Jean-Jerome, who was driving, said they saw the suspect running down a street.

“Before the car was stopped, he jumped out and catches the guy,” he said of Officer Ridley. “By the time the car was in park, the guy was in handcuffs.”

Nate Schweber and Matthew R.Warren contributed reporting.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/nyregion/27shoot.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5087&em&en=b0e4cee09e5c8fa8&ex=1201582800)

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FAMILY VIEWING ‘HEART-RENDING’ VIDEO OF MOUNT VERNON COP’S SHOOTING

By Will David • The Journal News • February 5, 2008

MOUNT VERNON – The family of slain Mount Vernon police Detective Christopher Ridley was to meet this morning with White Plains police and the Westchester County District Attorney’s office to view the videotape of their son’s death.Mount Vernon police Commissioner David Chong confirmed the meeting this morning. He said they were to meet at 10 a.m.Chong said the family might have a clerical representative with them.Chong said he reviewed the tape last night with the district attorney’s office and White Plains investigators.”Late Monday evening, both the Westchester district attorney and the White Plains Department of Public Safety gave me an update on Detective Christopher Ridley’s shooting,” Chong said. “I was shown the videotape for the first time, and I observed the last minutes of Detective Ridley’s life. The video was heart-rending. It does however confirm that Detective Christopher Ridley took police action and died in the performance of his duty.”

Chong added, “It is a horrible video to look at because it is the last moments of his life.”

Chong would not say what the video shows, citing the continuing investigation.

Chong said about 100 people in the 1 1/2-minute video have been found and interviewed by the White Plains investigators. Only the four police officers were not interviewed.

The tape was sent to the NYPD and Florida Department of Law Enforcement for enhancement.

Chong said the medical examiner’s report, forensic and ballistic evidence is still being reviewed as well as toxicology.

All of the guns from the county police officers have been sent to the NYPD for ballistics testing. Chong said all of the testing is being done away from the county police for the “neutrality” of the investigation

The toxicology test on Ridley is complete.

“There was no foreign substance in his body,” Chong said.

Chong added: “It is only with this full and comprehensive investigation, along with finalized medical, forensic, and ballistics reports that we can get as close to the answers that we all have as to why Christopher Ridley died and how collectively we can best attempt to insure that these types of tragedies will not occur again. We must not allow Detective Christopher Ridley to die in vain. The lessons learned from a thorough investigation must help us collectively make any necessary changes. This way, Detective Ridley will continue to save lives in the future.”

http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802050416

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“The witnesses said the events leading to Officer Ridley’s shooting began when a homeless man began beating up another man. Officer Ridley emerged from his vehicle to try to stop the fight. He briefly chased the homeless man, and the two began fighting outside the social services building. Officer Ridley’s gun, which a third witness said the officer grabbed from his vehicle and tucked into his waistband, fell to the ground during the scuffle and discharged, with the bullet striking concrete, the homeless couple said.

“The gunshot brought county police officers to the scene, and by the time they arrived, Officer Ridley had picked up his gun, the couple said.”

And the following:

“They told him put the gun down three times, and he wouldn’t put the gun down,” said Cathy, 44. She said that Officer Ridley might have been disoriented from the fight and unable to hear the officers’ commands. “He might have been dazed,” she said.”

Did these police officers allow Officer Ridley a chance to call out and identify himself as a police officer? Did they offer him a chance to try and show them identification, allow him to mentally collect himself from the scuffle he was just in (being in a fight can and will disorient you), and attempt to go to his vehicle and retrieve his police ID? The story/articles do not state this.
“The toxicology test on Ridley is complete.

“There was no foreign substance in his body,” Chong said.”

Black police officer.

In the process of breaking up a deadly assault.

In plain clothes.

Black police officer is holding a gun in his hands.

Police officers shoot HIM.

Living while black.

Dying while black.

This from Mount Vernon police Commissioner David Chong:

“It is only with this full and comprehensive investigation, along with finalized medical, forensic, and ballistics reports that we can get as close to the answers that we all have as to why Christopher Ridley died and how collectively we can best attempt to insure that these types of tragedies will not occur again. We must not allow Detective Christopher Ridley to die in vain. The lessons learned from a thorough investigation must help us collectively make any necessary changes. This way, Detective Ridley will continue to save lives in the future.”
No, Mr. Chong.

WE will see more of these tragedies as long as black men are perceived as “brute criminals” in all people’s minds—citizens—-and especially police officers.

This is certainly not the first time such an incident has happened in America; it will not be the last time.

As long as black men and women’s lives are held cheaply and devalued in this country, many more innocent black men—and women–police officers will continue to lose their lives to preconceived stereotypes of all black people as criminals.

(Hattip to Rachel of Rachel’s Tavern:  http://rachelstavern.com )

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RELATED LINKS:

COURT ADJOURNED FOR HOMELESS MAN IN COP SHOOTING CASE:

http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802050334

YEARS LATER, AN OFFICER IS STILL HAUNTED BY A CLOSE CALL:

http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802020344

THOUSANDS SAY GOOD-BYE TO SLAIN MOUNT VERNON DETECTIVE:

http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802020362

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