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
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.
Co-Founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care
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