05/29/2003

NYPD Official Reassigned After Mistake

NEW YORK (AP) - A senior police commander has become the third police official to be reassigned after a botched raid on a Harlem apartment that left a 57-year-old woman dead.

Assistant Chief Thomas Purtell, who oversees the department's Emergency Service Unit, was transferred to the Housing Bureau on Wednesday.

Alberta Spruill went into cardiac arrest after the May 16 raid, during which officers detonated a flash grenade and handcuffed her. A police informant had wrongly identified her apartment as one used by a drug dealer to stash cocaine and heroin.

Purtell was not at the raid, and was not directly involved in its supervision, but the officers who made the decision to use a flash grenade after breaking down the door were under his command.

Earlier, the Emergency Service Unit lieutenant who supervised the entry into the apartment was reassigned to desk duty, and the commander of the precinct where the incident took place was transferred.

The city medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide, saying Spruill's heart disease was aggravated by the raid. But a city official said the office was not making any judgment that the police acted improperly or that their conduct was unlawful.

The district attorney's office is investigating. No charges have been filed.

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