NYPD Officer Says He Does Not Recall Fatal Shot in Stairwell
The police officer who shot and killed an unarmed 19-year-old last month on the roof of a Brooklyn housing project told a grand jury yesterday that he did not remember raising his weapon and pulling the trigger, according to two people familiar with his testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In testimony before the 23-member grand jury, the officer, Richard S. Neri Jr., for the first time gave his account of the shooting, and expressed remorse about the death of the young man, Timothy Stansbury Jr., according to the officer's lawyer.
Officer Neri, who was patrolling the rooftops and stairwells of the Louis Armstrong Houses with his partner on Jan. 24, was about to enter a stairwell door from the roof of 385 Lexington Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant as Mr. Stansbury, trailed by two friends, was coming through the door onto the roof, officials have said. Mr. Stansbury and his friends were taking a shortcut to return to a party in an adjoining building.
Officer Neri's partner, Officer Jason Hallik, has said the shooting occurred after he tried to pull the door open so that Officer Neri, whose gun was drawn, could check the rooftop landing, officials have said.
As the door swung open, Officer Neri, 35, a 12-year veteran of the force, fired a single shot, striking Mr. Stansbury in the chest, officials have said. People familiar with the officer's earlier statements have said that he apparently was startled by Mr. Stansbury on the other side of the door.
Law enforcement officials have said the grand jurors would most likely be asked to vote to indict Officer Neri on charges of criminally negligent homicide or second-degree manslaughter.
Officer Neri left the State Supreme Court building on Adams Street in downtown Brooklyn, where the panel has been hearing evidence, after testifying for about an hour and 10 minutes yesterday.
The officer waived immunity and chose to testify before the grand jury in the hope that his explanation of the events would convince the grand jurors that the shooting was not a crime, his lawyer said.
Officer Neri's lawyer, Stuart London, who spoke to a throng of reporters outside the courthouse, declined to discuss the details of his client's testimony before the panel, which by law conducts its proceedings in secret. But Mr. London said that the testimony had been emotional and that his client answered all the questions posed by a prosecutor from the office of the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes.
"He testified honestly and truthfully from the heart that there was no misconduct, and he went through in excruciating detail everything that occurred that night on the rooftop," Mr. London said. "We believe in the system, and we're hopeful that justice will be done and there will be no charges against him at all."
Mr. London also said of Officer Neri: "His heart goes out to the family."
"He's remorseful for the fact that they have suffered a serious loss in this case, but by the same token, we're protecting his rights," Mr. London said.
A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, also declined to comment on the testimony.
Later in the afternoon, Councilmen Charles Barron and Albert Vann joined Mr. Stansbury's father, grandmother and several other family members outside the courthouse. Mr. Barron reiterated his call for an indictment in the case, saying, "I don't know how on God's earth you don't come back with an indictment on this one."
Mr. Stansbury's father, Timothy Stansbury Sr., was asked by reporters about Mr. London's remarks about Officer Neri's remorse. "He can apologize," the elder Mr. Stansbury said. "I accept his apology, but law is law. You got to go by the law."