New York Daily News

March 20, 2008 

Jury clears man of shooting at cops; man still convicted on gun charge

BY SCOTT SHIFREL and TRACY CONNOR
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

A skeptical jury cleared a trigger-happy thug of attempted murder Tuesday for shooting at cops in a Brooklyn firefight - but convicted him on a gun charge.

Damian Henry, who is serving 25 years for another case, wept with relief after the panel ended three days of deliberations with the mixed verdict.

"He was looking at 100 years to life and now he's facing 3-1/2 to 15," defense lawyer Harold Baker said at Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Henry, 27, was packing an Uzi and a longstanding grudge against cops when he was tossed from the Ragtop Lounge in East Flatbush on Jan. 21, 2006.

Prosecutors said he pointed the automatic weapon at NYPD Sgt. Ajay Kapour and Officer Andrew Rydlewski and fired twice.

The cops returned 30 rounds, hitting Henry 18 times. He lost his trigger finger and suffered a serious groin injury.

Baker argued Henry was the victim of a conspiracy by vengeful police who'd had a past run-in with him, noting that club bouncers summoned cops on their cell phones, not 911.

"It speaks volumes that the jury found him not guilty of shooting these two police officers who, it was clear, were lying on the witness stand," Baker said.

Jurors didn't go that far, saying there just wasn't proof Henry aimed at the cops.

"We didn't buy into the conspiracy theory, but there were a lot of holes in the prosecution's case," one juror said.

"I feel like the police were holding back," another juror said. "They probably weren't telling the whole truth."

Prosecutor Joe Alexis claimed victory even though Henry was acquitted of all counts but gun possession and misdemeanor menacing.

"He fired two shots at these officers. They weren't hurt and they were able to stop him. At the end of the day, he's gonna pay a hefty punishment for his crime," Alexis said.

Henry has a long rap sheet. In 2003, he was acquitted of shooting a rookie cop from a rooftop.

Two years ago, he was convicted of shooting up a Flatbush restaurant that booted him. His Glock .9-mm was later used to kill Officer Dillon Stewart, though Henry wasn't charged.

Citing his history, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch called for the judge to give Henry the maximum 15 years on the gun rap. "Damian Henry clearly has no qualms about pulling the trigger on police officers or civilians," Lynch said.

sshifrel@nydailynews.com