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The Ocean Hill – Stansbury Connection

On  12/21/04 at the Ocean Hill Housing Development,  the ghost of tragedies past reared its ugly head.  A uniformed police officer, while conducting a vertical had a part of the finger on his right hand shot off.  Initial reports indicated that the perpetrator of this act was the ‘usual suspect’, a black man.  Police seized the complex as they systematically searched for this gun toting black man.  They even had a description:  Male Black, black ski mask, black coat, armed with a gun.  The Police Commissioner himself supplied the story and description to the press.  The officer’s version as related by Commissioner Kelly was that during the course of a vertical patrol, the officer encountered a man with a gun and pursued him resulting in an abbreviated gun battle.  Commissioner Kelly’s version indicated that the officer’s fingertip was shot off during the exchange of gunfire.  Mayor Bloomberg after visiting the injured Police Officer told the waiting press that he had “…thanked him for the risk he took in protecting his fellow New Yorkers.”  All appeared normal until the facts unfolded.

On 12/22/04 apparently the evidence directly contradicted the initial version.  Somehow in the span of less than 24 hours, what initially appeared to be another heroic sacrifice by New York’s Finest had transformed into a bold faced lie.  A lie that had caused countless innocent citizens pain and intrusion only familiar to those who have lived under the oppression of a police state.  In this police state long established guaranteed rights and protections are discarded for the public good.  The apparent reality is that all investigative roads led to a single shooter, the officer himself.  Police Commissioner Kelly is the Fred Astaire of  policing.  He simply changed his footwork according to the tune of the day.  Commissioner Kelly called his loyal dictation takers who masquerade as journalists and gave them the updated version of the Ocean Hill shooting.  According to Commissioner Kelly it is now apparent that the Police Officer, observed the ‘usual suspect’ with a gun and while attempting to switch his gun from one hand to another he discharged his weapon shooting off his fingertip.  Even more double talk followed.  Commissioner Kelly stated “We are not searching for that individual although the officer believed him to have a weapon.” (New York Post 12/22/04).  For those trying to follow along it goes like this : either the Police Officer lied to the investigators and the investigators passed that lie to the Police Commissioner, or the Police Commissioner lied to the public and the Mayor or everybody’s lying and hoping that you fall for it.  Anyway you slice it swift departmental charges and termination are in order.  

Lets look deeper into this incident and remember the Timothy Stansbury death at the Louis Armstrong Houses a mere 11 months ago.  Both involved vertical patrols conducted by a Police Officer who not only had his gun un-holstered and in the ready position, but had his finger on the trigger.  Even more, both officers had the gun pointed in an unsafe direction when THEY pulled the trigger.  The initial versions were full of inconsistencies and outright distortions.  In the Stansbury shooting, it is accepted that he was on the roof, however the fact is that the Police Officer was on the roof entering the building when Mr. Stansbury was shot.  Mr. Stansbury and his friends were on the landing inside of the building.  The Ocean Hill shooting presupposed that there was an actual armed perpetrator who engaged in a shootout with a uniformed Police Officer.  Obviously ballistics evidence and common sense have ruled out that possibility.  After the Stansbury shooting, many praised Commissioner Kelly for his quick response to the family’s pain.  Commissioner Kelly promised a review of procedures and tactics when conducting vertical patrols.  Commissioner Kelly even appointed Deputy Commissioner James Fyfe to empanel other NYPD executives to come up with a policy on vertical patrol.  You remember Deputy Commissioner Fyfe from the Diallo shooting where he testified on behalf of the Police Officers involved and indicated that they acted within NYPD guidelines.  He even went a little further by testifying that the officers had an official obligation to pursue the unarmed African immigrant.  Some 11 months after the Stansbury shooting we are still waiting on Deputy Commissioner Fyfe’s comprehensive report and recommendations.  I suspect that we’ll get one in the upcoming weeks as a result of the more recent shooting.  Both incidents are supported by the common misconception that Blacks are dangerous by nature.  The only difference in the Ocean Hill shooting and that of Timothy Stansbury is a fingertip.

The Ocean Hill shooting is the same as Susan Smith in South Carolina, Charles Stewart in Boston and the death of Anthony Baez in the Bronx.  All 3 cases attempted to offer up a Black man as the perpetrator.  Susan Smith drowned her 2 children and alleged that they were abducted by a Black man.  Charles Stewart murdered his pregnant wife and said a Black man did it.  The Police Officers in the strangulation death of Anthony Baez testified that they observed a mysterious, still unidentified Black hand around Mr. Baez neck in spite of Police Officer Livoti’s violent demented attack on him.  In Ocean Hill an entire community became suspect after the initial account of the shooting incident.  How many apartments were forcibly entered by the police, how many people were forcibly stopped by the police, how many children were subjected to yet another humiliating  encounter with the police.  These questions point out the residual effect of unchecked authority based on lies and manipulated perception.  All is not well in Ocean Hill if anybody can say anything that leads to the constitution being tossed aside for a night.

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly have some explaining to do if there goal is positive community relations.  There should be an immediate town hall meeting in Ocean Hill to fully explain the facts as they are today.  How many warrantless searches were conducted?  How many stop and frisk reports were prepared?  How many arrests occurred during the investigation period?  How many summonses were issued?  What will happen to the Police Officer who exposed his colleagues to unreasonable risk?  What action will occur to rectify the public perception of the residents?  What policy and procedure will be changed and when?  

There is no direct accountability because the community doesn’t demand it.  While we continue with our episodic response to police misconduct and abuse, Phyllis Clayburne still mourns the death of her innocent son, Timothy Stansbury.  She too is waiting on the promises made by the  Mayor and Police Commissioner some 11 months later.  January 24th is the one year anniversary of the death of Timothy Stansbury…Let his death be not in vain.

This article was co-written by Detective Marq Claxton of the community outreach arm of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. 

Eric Adams

Co-Founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care


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