New York Daily News

June 10, 2004

Cop is indicted in Zongo slaying

By BARBARA ROSS, JOHN MARZULLI and TRACY CONNOR
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

The plainclothes cop who gunned down an unarmed immigrant in a Chelsea warehouse has been indicted on a manslaughter rap that could send him to prison for five to 15 years, the Daily News has learned.

Officer Bryan Conroy spent two days last month testifying before a Manhattan grand jury investigating the May 2003 shooting of African craftsman Ousmane Zongo - an incident that sparked protests and cries of outrage.

The panel decided not to charge the four-year veteran with murder, but voted to indict him on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, according to a source familiar with the case. Conroy is expected to surrender today.

The Manhattan district attorney's office refused to comment on the case, but the decision drew praise from Zongo's relatives and their attorney.

"The family has been patient in waiting for justice. The grand jury has done justice. We now await a jury to hear the case," said lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, who spoke with Zongo's uncle.

Conroy's attorney Stuart London declined to comment, but the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association predicted Conroy would be acquitted. "We believe that the grand jury made a mistake in indicting this police officer, and we are confident that he will be exonerated when all of the facts are known," PBA President Patrick Lynch said.

Conroy and Zongo's paths first crossed in the corridors of the Chelsea Mini-Storage facility, where police were conducting a raid on CD bootleggers.

Zongo, 43, had no connection to the counterfeit operation but was renting a cubicle on the same floor of the building.

He took off when he saw a man in civilian clothes holding a gun, was chased into a dead-end hallway and was shot four times, including once in the back.

Conroy, who belonged to the Staten Island Task Force, contends he fired his gun only after Zongo lunged for his weapon. There were no witnesses.

Zongo's family has filed a $150 million federal lawsuit against the city, but the indictment is likely to delay those proceedings.

The city is expected to request and receive a stay of the suit since it cannot interview witnesses until the criminal case is over.

With Greg Gittrich