New York Police Officer Found Not Guilty in Fatal Off-Duty Shooting of Unarmed Man

Officer Wayne Isaacs on Nov. 2. Officer Isaacs was the first police officer to face criminal charges brought by the state attorney general’s office under a directive from the governor to investigate police killings of unarmed civilians.
Dave Sanders for The New York Times

A New York City police officer was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges on Monday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man who the officer said attacked him last year during a late-night traffic dispute in Brooklyn.

The officer, Wayne Isaacs, 38, testified last week in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn that he opened fire after the man, Delrawn Small, threatened to kill him and punched him shortly after midnight on July 4, 2016 at a stoplight in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn. He was the first police officer to face criminal charges brought by the state attorney general’s office under a directive from the governor to investigate police killings of unarmed civilians.

grainy surveillance video that emerged almost a week later raised questions about the officer’s account of the incident and played a central role during his two-week trial. The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for three days before rendering a verdict.

As the foreman read the verdict aloud in the second-floor courtroom of Justice Alexander B. Jeong, Mr. Isaacs’ supporters clapped as those on Mr. Small’s side of the courtroom could be heard weeping and yelling, “He got off!”

Hawk Newsome, the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, yelled, “You’re a murderer, and y’all let him get away with it.”

Justice Jeong thanked the jurors for their service, then turned to Officer Isaacs and said: “Only you know what exactly happened out there. So no one’s passing any judgment, and let’s try to hope that we have no further incidents like this in the future. I guess that’s the only thing I can hope for.”

The verdict was a setback for the office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in its effort to carry out a mandate from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate and prosecute police killings of unarmed civilians. Mr. Cuomo gave the order in 2015 amid public outcry over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Ashley Southall