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NYPO gets probation in death of unarmed African immigrant

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK- A police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African immigrant in a Manhattan warehouse was sentenced Friday to five years probation and 500 hours of community service. He had faced up to four years in prison.

"You will recognize every day that you took a life that shouldn't have been taken," state Supreme Court Justice Robert Straus told the defendant.

Officer Bryan Conroy was convicted in October of criminally negligent homicide, but was acquitted of a more serious charge of second-degree manslaughter. That count would have been punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

"Even as a child, the only job I ever wanted was to be a New York City police officer. That dream is gone forever," Conroy told the judge before he was sentenced. "The only thing I have left is my family, my wife and my child. I ask you to let me go home today with my family."

"Jail is not appropriate in this case," replied the judge.

Conroy, 27, shot Ousmane Zongo on May 23, 2003, in a Chelsea storage warehouse during a police raid in which two suspected counterfeiters of CDs and DVDs were arrested. Zongo was not connected to that case.

Conroy contended that Zongo, 43, a native of Burkina Faso and a repairer of African art objects and musical instruments, tried to disarm him, and he shot Zongo four times _ two wounds were in the back _ in self defense.

Conroy was a member of a police task force conducting the undercover raid and was wearing a postal service uniform with a police badge pinned to his shirt and his service weapon tucked in his waistband.

The case prompted comparisons with the infamous shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant shot to death at the front door of his New York apartment building in 1999 by four officers who said he fit the description of a rape suspect and they mistook his wallet for a gun.

The officers, who fired 41 shots at Diallo, were acquitted of state criminal charges in a 2000 trial.

Conroy's first trial ended in March with the jury deadlocked 10-2 for conviction. His second trial was heard before a judge.

The Zongo family has filed a federal wrongful death civil suit.

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