New York Daily News

January 26, 2004

Dueling views of roof shoot

Say teen 'came flying' through door, but his pals dispute account

By MICHELE McPHEE, ALICE McQUILLAN and DAVE GOLDINER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

The cop who fatally shot an unarmed teen on a Brooklyn housing project rooftop fired because the youth "came flying" through a doorway at his partner, sources said yesterday.

But a lawyer for the family of Timothy Stansbury Jr., 19, hotly disputed that account, saying the victim never even made it through the rooftop door.

Officer Richard Neri was "remorseful" over the Saturday shooting, said his lawyer, who asked the public not to rush to judgment as a grand jury was set to hear the case this week.

"He is clearly sympathetic to the loss the family is feeling and is looking forward to a fair and impartial investigation," said the lawyer, Stuart London.

As neighborhood outrage grew, two starkly different versions emerged of the deadly, split-second confrontation atop the Louis Armstrong Houses, in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

People familiar with the account of Neri's partner, Officer Jason Hallik, said the two cops were patrolling the roof of 385 Lexington Ave., guns drawn, shortly before 1 a.m., when Hallik got into a tug of war over the door with Stansbury, who was at the top of the stairway.

"The kid came flying through the door. It looked like he was lunging at the partner," said a law-enforcement source. Another source also said Neri, 35, fired because he believed Hallik, 33, was in danger.

But Stansbury family lawyer Michael Heller said the two pals who were climbing the stairway with the teen said none of them even touched the door.

The three were on their way to a party at another building in the complex and planned to use the roof as a shortcut.

"They never got out of the door," said Heller, who interviewed the two friends. "They were like dominoes. Unfortunately for Timothy, he was No.1 and he went down."

After taking a bullet in the chest, Stansbury stumbled to the lobby and collapsed.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who said Saturday that the shooting did not appear to be justified, yesterday ordered a review of the policy that allows cops to patrol housing project roofs with their guns drawn.

But in a radio interview yesterday, he declined to second-guess Hallik and Neri, who had never before fired his weapon on duty in 12 years with the NYPD. "You can't micromanage or direct every situation," he told 98.7/KISS-FM. Both cops were placed on desk duty.

Kelly and numerous sources discounted a report that Neri believed Stansbury had a gun.

Stansbury's two pals are scheduled to meet with prosecutors this morning. Investigators have yet to interview Neri.

Hallik answered questions after the shooting, but the session was cut short when he became lightheaded and was treated by paramedics, sources said.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office plans to begin presenting evidence to a grand jury as soon as this week.

The teen's grieving relatives, who were visited Saturday by Mayor Bloomberg, demanded Neri be charged with a crime.

"The cop killed all of us," Stansbury's grandmother, Irene Clayburne, 73, said last night. "I want him to go to jail. They took a great boy from me."

Friends called Stansbury a bright light who worked at McDonald's. He got his GED hours before he was shot, and had hoped to go to college.

His girlfriend miscarried days before the deadly shooting. "She lost her baby and Timothy in the same week," said Urasia Clayburne, 28, a Stansbury cousin.

Meanwhile, police union chief Patrick Lynch blasted Kelly for "jumping to conclusions" in calling the shooting unjustified.

But another police group said Neri was asking for trouble by having his gun drawn. "If a police officer needs to walk with his gun out, then he's in the wrong occupation," said Eric Adams, head of 100 Black Men in Law Enforcement Who Care.

With Nancy Dillon, Bill Egbert, Tamer El-Ghobashy, Derek Rose and Tony Sclafani