No charges in fatal shooting of off-duty officer
By Jim Fitzgerald
MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. — The Westchester County investigation that cleared four police officers in the killing of an off-duty colleague was rushed and incomplete, and state and federal officials should step in, the victim's parents and their supporters said Thursday.
They also called for a rally next week at the scene of the shooting and implied that the policeman, Christopher Ridley, might not have been slain if he were white.
"We will not sit by and allow this to be the last word," said the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, speaking for the United Black Clergy of Westchester at a news conference in a chapel of his Grace Baptist Church.
He said the family and the community "feel betrayed, outraged, and believe that this report is a collaboration of coverup." He characterized the grand jury report as saying, "Christopher died and it was nobody's fault. ... The most outrageous conclusion that we could have ever imagined."
Ridley's mother, Felita Bouche, said, "I don't like what Westchester did. I think they need to be investigated. It's been 47 days I waited patiently. ... I want an investigation done and I want justification."
Ridley's father, Stanley Ridley, wept and said, "I want answers now. ... Somebody's going to give me some answers."
Calvin Scholar, a lawyer for the family, alleged that White Plains police, who ran the investigation, sometimes ignored witnesses whose accounts would have supported criminal charges. He would not provide the names of those witnesses.
Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore said she had "complete faith and confidence" in the grand jury process.
Ridley, 23, was killed Jan. 25 as he tried to arrest an assault suspect in downtown White Plains. Based on witness accounts and surveillance videos, officials said, Ridley did not identify himself as a policeman, and did not drop his gun when the county officers ordered him to do so. He was killed when he turned toward the officers with his gun in his hand, the officials said.
DiFiore said the grand jury found "no reasonable cause to believe that a criminal offense was committed."
Richardson said only an open trial would provide justice. He said he has asked state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate the Westchester probe. He also said the Department of Justice should look into the killing and consider whether Ridley's civil or other rights were violated.
Calls to Cuomo's office and the U.S. attorney's office were not immediately returned.
The Rev. Darin Moore, president of the black clergy group, said Cuomo should also investigate all incidents in which police kill innocent civilians or fellow officers. The group also demanded that Westchester County and its cities, towns and villages review police procedures, conduct police training to counteract racial stereotypes and review minority hiring and promotions in law enforcement.
Of the four county officers involved in the shooting, one is black, one is white and two are Hispanic. Asked if he thought Ridley would not have been killed if he were white, Richardson said, "The statistics say that it never happens. ... It only happens when he's black, across America."
He said a protest rally would be held Wednesday at the time of day and the place where Ridley was killed.
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