New York 1 News

February 11, 2004

Officer Who Shot Unarmed Teen Testifies Before Grand Jury

The police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager on a Brooklyn rooftop testified before a grand jury Wednesday, hoping his cooperation will lead to lesser or no charges.

Herman Bell    

Housing officer Richard Neri’s testimony lasted a little over an hour, and he left the courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn without speaking to reporters. His attorney said that Neri is not guilty of any crimes.

“He testified honestly and truthfully from the heart that there was no misconduct, and he went through, in excruciating detail, everything that occurred that night on the rooftop,” said the lawyer, Stuart London. “At this point it’s in the hands of the grand jury.

Neri was emotional and remorseful on the stand, and you could hear a pin drop in the grand jury room, according to Stuart.

“It’s traumatized his life,” he said. “Each day he gets stronger and he realizes that what happened to him could happen to any member of the New York City Police Department. And I think he was happy today, that for the first time he was able to relate to these grand jurors his feelings towards the tragedy that occurred and the facts of the particular circumstances.”

The grand jury will now decide whether to clear Neri or indict him on charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

Sources tell NY1 it is unlikely the grand jury will reach a decision this week. That will likely happen next week or the week after.

City Councilman Charles Barron says the grand jury has heard enough evidence to indict Neri.

“They have forensic evidence, they have the testimony of both police officers, they have the police commissioner saying it was unjustified - I don't know how on God's Earth that you don't come back with an indictment on this one,” said Barron.

During a rooftop patrol Louis Armstrong Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant on January 24, Neri fatally shot 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury, who was returning from another building to pick up some CDs for a party. It was the first time Neri fired his weapon in his 12 years on the force.

According to sources, Neri's partner told investigators that Stansbury startled the officers while they were opening the door to the roof at the same time from opposite sides. Two friends who were with Stansbury dispute that claim, saying Neri fired without warning.

The day of the shooting, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the use of force appeared to be unjustified, drawing the ire of the police union. On Tuesday, the union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, took a vote of no confidence in Kelly and demanded his resignation, also citing disputes over pay.

In an editorial in the New York Post published Wednesday, Kelly said a quick response to the shooting kept the city calm.

"When a police shooting results in the loss of life, there is a special obligation on the police department to make the facts known, especially if the victim was unarmed,” he writes. “An honest and timely exposition of the facts can go a long way in safeguarding officers, as well as the community.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is backing his police commissioner.