Innocent, Unarmed Man Shot by New York City Drug Unit 3/24/00

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In what is becoming a depressingly regular occurrence, a young, unarmed black man was shot and killed by New York City police officers last week in mid-town Manhattan. The victim, Patrick Dorismond, 25, was the son of well-known Haitian singer Andre Dorismond and was himself the father of two small children.

Undercover Detective Anderson Moran approached Mr. Dorismond as part of a "buy and bust" marijuana operation, part of NYC's "Operation Condor." While eyewitness accounts of the incident are differing and incomplete, what is known is that Detective Moran asked Dorismond, who had just come out of a bar with a friend, if he would sell him some marijuana. Dorismond had no marijuana, nor is there any evidence that he was selling or had ever sold marijuana. Dorismond apparently took exception to Moran's insistence and a scuffle ensued, at which time two back-up plain clothes officers approached.

One shot from Detective Vasquez' service revolver struck Dorismond in the chest, killing him.

Within hours of the shooting, NYC Police Commissioner Howard Safir released sealed juvenile records indicating that Dorismond had been arrested -- the charges were subsequently dropped -- for burglary and assault when he was thirteen years' old. The release of that information, and NYC Mayor Giuliani's subsequent negative portrayal of Mr. Dorismond in the media, has prompted outrage from community leaders and some city and state officials.

According to press reports, the primary discrepancies between the officers' account and that of Kevin Kaiser, Dorismond's friend and another eyewitness, were as to who threw the first punch in the altercation and whether or not the officers ever identified themselves as such. Manhattan DA Robert Morganthau's office is handling the investigation.

At the center of the outrage over this most recent shooting is the Haitian community, of which Dorismond was member, as is police brutality victim Abner Louima. Jean Vernet of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights in New York told The Week Online that these incidents have raised multiple concerns.

"People are very angry and upset," said Mr. Vernet. "Their concern revolves around three areas. First, every time that a member of a minority group -- not just Haitians -- has been beaten or killed by the police, Mayor Giuliani automatically heaps blame on the victim, calling him a criminal, or disturbed, and praises the police. It is as if he assumes that if you are black or a member of some other minority group or if you are emotionally disturbed, as was the case with a young Hasidic man who was shot by police several months ago, you are automatically to blame for whatever happens to you."

"What does that mean about the justice that you can expect if you are a member of a minority community, and particularly if you are a young, black male?"

"Second, people are very concerned that some of us are not even getting to be judged by the system, with police acting as judge, jury and executioner. The job of the police is not to execute people in the streets."

"And third, we are approached on the streets by people who look like thugs themselves, but are actually undercover police offices, and asked for drugs or information on where they can get drugs. It is assumed by the police, it seems that if you are black, you must therefore be somehow involved in the drug trade. And even after the person, in this case Mr. Dorismond, is shot and killed, he is made out by the Mayor and the police commissioner to be a criminal, even if he had done nothing wrong. For the family, especially a Haitian family, this is like having your child killed twice. In Haiti, we do not speak ill of the dead, and doing so, especially in a situation such as this, only adds to the pain of such a tragic loss."

But, Vernet noted, it will not be enough to hold a demonstration or to make the community's voice heard in the media.

"At this point, with all that is going on and continues to go on between the police and the community, we must use this tragedy as motivation to organize politically, to make ourselves part of the process for the long term. It is only through organizing that our interests will be represented and the necessary reforms put into practice."

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights is online at http://www.nchr.org.

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Issue #130, 3/24/00 Innocent, Unarmed Man Shot by New York City Drug Unit | National Drug Strategy Released, and Testimony by Eric Sterling | Dump Judge Judy Campaign Growing, Needs Volunteer Monitors, Pain Patients Speak Out | Another Medical Marijuana Bill Goes Before Maryland House Committee | Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Forfeiture Reform Bill, Colombia Aid Package Stalled | Medical Marijuana Patients Begin Northern Florida "Journey For Justice" | Breaking News: UK to Legalize Medical Marijuana | No Hemp for the Masses | High School Anti-Drug Lesson Daringly Different | Link of the Week: "Lost Political Causes" by William F. Buckley | OP-ED: No End in Sight in Los Angeles Police Scandal
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