New York Post
October 22, 2005

COP GUILTY OF ZONGO SLAY

By LAURA ITALIANO

Officer Bryan Conroy — the young cop who shot an unarmed West African artisan four times, at least once from behind, in a Chelsea warehouse — was cleared of manslaughter yesterday but found guilty of a less serious charge of homicide.

The compromise verdict in the 2003 shooting, rendered by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Robert Straus, led to cries of joy from victim Ousmane Zongo's family and supporters, a dozen of whom had been somber, steadfast presences throughout two criminal trials.

"Victory for Zongo!" several among the group shouted upon leaving the courthouse.

As they cheered, Conroy, 27, who had remained expressionless while hearing his verdict, rushed past with his saddened family into a waiting van.

"This will not bring my husband back," Salimata Sanfo told reporters, speaking of Zongo, 42, her husband with whom she has two children back in their native Burkina Faso.

"But now I will go back to Africa," said the widow, whose robes beneath her coat were red, white and blue. "And I will tell everyone that justice can be obtained in the United States."

But the verdict — for which Conroy faces anywhere from probation to four years' prison when he's sentenced Dec. 2 — had his fellow cops seething.

Conroy was at the Chelsea Mini Storage on a bootleg-DVD raid — disguised in his dad's postal uniform — on that May afternoon when he stumbled on Zongo, who repaired African masks and drums in a storage-bin workshop.

Conroy has maintained since his arrest that although Zongo was obviously unarmed, the West African inexplicably lunged at his service weapon.

"This judge was wrong," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said of yesterday's verdict.

"When someone's trying to take your weapon from you, and your family's faces are passing before your eyes, an officer should be allowed to defend himself."

The judge found Conroy not guilty of manslaughter in the second degree, a charge that would have meant Conroy recklessly caused Zongo's death.

Instead, the judge found Conroy guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

The first trial ended in mistrial in March, with the jury voting 10-2 for conviction.

This time around, the defense opted for a bench trial, meaning there's no jury.