New York Post
February 16, 2000


DIALLO COPS TELL OF SHOOTOUT TERROR

By LAURA ITALIANO

 
HIGH EMOTIONS: Lawyer Bennett Epstein's hand rests on the shoulder of Officer Sean Carroll during a dramatic day of testimony from defendants Kenneth Boss (below) and Richard Murphy. - AP  
   

ALBANY -- The two cops who fired the fewest bullets at Amadou Diallo testified yesterday that they were so convinced he had a gun, one thought, "I'm going to die," and the other felt "sick to my stomach."

Officers Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy insisted that in a "dimly lit" Bronx vestibule and in the confused few seconds that four cops fired 41 shots they saw what appeared to be a gun clutched in Diallo's right hand.

They were later shaken to find it was only a wallet.

Diallo crouched into what Boss called a "combat stance" during the shooting, further fueling their fears.

Boss, last to emerge from the anti-crime cops' idling unmarked car, said he saw Diallo in the rear of the vestibule of his apartment building.

"He's crouched. He's got his hand out. He's got a gun," Boss said of Diallo, his panicky voice mirroring the staccato of the shooting.

"And I said, 'Oh, my God, I'm going to die.' "

The dramatic testimony by Boss, who fired five times, and Murphy, who fired four times, follows the nearly identical explanations of the other two cops on trial for murder for the shooting on Feb. 4, 1999, of the unarmed West African street peddler.

Jurors have heard Boss, Murphy, and officers Sean Carroll and Edward McMellon who fired 16 rounds each describe without contradiction how Diallo appeared to be a threat throughout the fatal fusillade, waving his arms even as he slid down into the crouch.

Bronx prosecutors tried in vain during tense cross-examinations to goad the officers to become angry or contradict one another.

In his questioning of the officers, Assistant District Attorney Donald Levin began laying the ground for arguments that the cops could have taken cover and merely watched Diallo as he stood trapped in the vestibule and therefore weren't in as much danger as they claimed.

But jurors have also heard some of the emotion behind the facts. Yesterday they heard the 911 tape in which Boss frantically shouts into a police radio after the shooting, "Get me a bus and a boss, forthwith!" meaning an ambulance for Diallo.

Carroll alone has broken down and cried on the stand.

But Boss and Murphy each described their raw fear at hearing gunfire erupt while seeing McMellon fall backward off Diallo's stoop thinking their partner was hit and Carroll "scrambling" to back away from what they all believed was a gunman.

Murphy testified: "I got this sick feeling in my stomach ... I seen the gun in [Diallo's] hand ... I felt like I'm going to be hit."

"It was frantic ... it was intense," Boss said. "Ed was on the ground; the shots were still going on ... Ed was shot, that's all I could see."