By Bradley Hope, Staff Reporter
The New York Sun
In the wake of six police-involved shootings in three weeks - three of them fatal - department officials yesterday dismissed claims that officers are getting more violent with people they believe are committing crimes.
While the shootings appear to be salient because of the increased scrutiny on the department since the Sean Bell shooting, the number of police-involved shootings this year hasn't varied much when compared with previous years, a police spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, said.
As of yesterday, there have been 13 fatal police shootings in 2006, four more than in 2005. Since 2002, the department has averaged 12 fatal shootings a year, which Mr. Browne said is a large improvement versus the 1990s, when the department had about 25 fatal shootings a year.
The number of bullets fired in the Bell shooting was unusual, police officials have said. This year, officers have fired 523 bullets, which is 13% less than in 2005, when 603 bullets were fired, Mr. Browne said.
Experts said last week that like crime, police shootings don't happen with a discernible rhythm. The president of the Detective's Endowment Association, Michael Palladino, said the holiday season usually witnesses more crimes, which he said might explain the spike in police shootings.
The latest killed by police fire was a 62-year-old Russian immigrant, Anatoly Dimitriev.
Police responded to a call Saturday regarding an emotionally disturbed man hacking away at bushes at an apartment building in the Baychester section of the Bronx. When they arrived, Dimitriev had barricaded himself inside with heavy furniture, including an air-conditioner. Officers initially believed he had a hostage inside, but he was alone. As Emergency Service Unit officers worked to break down the door, Dimitriev fled out the window. A floor below, two officers were standing guard on the fire escape.
When Dimitriev emerged onto the escape, he lunged at officers with an 18-inch axe. An officer fired a single bullet into his abdomen, but he didn't stop coming down the stairs, so he fired a second time. Dimitriev was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr. Browne said a preliminary examination of the facts showed the shooting appeared to be justified.
Police responded to six domestic incidences at Dimitriev's apartment in the past. He was estranged from his adult son, who had an order of protection from his father, police said.
On December 13, police shot and killed a man with a gun in the Bronx. Officers were trying to apprehend Timur Person, 19, but he resisted. When an officer felt a gun in Person's waistband, he fired five shots, killing him.
Bell was killed on November 25, when five police officers fired 50 bullets into a car he was riding in with two friends. They were leaving a topless bar, where they were celebrating Bell's bachelor party, and an undercover detective believed they had a gun. When he tried to stop them, Bell drove forward and rammed a van with police officers inside, prompting them to open fire.
Bell's father, William Bell, yesterday called for a special prosecutor to investigate the officers who fired.
"We're here in peace," he said, standing in front of an enlarged photo of his son in a baseball uniform. "But we need justice."
In Queens, a high-profile victim of police abuse, Abner Louima, and the Reverend Al Sharpton visited another victim of the Bell shooting, Joseph Guzman, at the hospital where he is recovering from 17 bullet wounds.
On Saturday, a large march comprising activists, elected leaders, and Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre-Bell, made its way down Fifth Avenue.
The groups released a set of demands for the city in response to Bell's death. Among the proposals are a more powerful Civilian Complaint Review Board and better wages and benefits for police officers.
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NY police say 2006 shootings by officers on par with other years