The New York Times
October 12, 2007


Brooklyn Man Is Convicted of Murder in Officer’s Shooting

By MICHAEL BRICK

A Brooklyn man was convicted of first-degree murder yesterday for fatally shooting a police officer during a wild car chase through Flatbush at the close of the Thanksgiving weekend in 2005.

The man, Allan Cameron, 29, left the courtroom in silence, as did his family and dozens of uniformed officers who had watched the trial for weeks. When they were gone, the family of the slain officer, Dillon Stewart, 35, remained in the courtroom, some of them sobbing.

In the hallway outside, his fellow officers stood at attention, their dress blues aligned to form a somber background for his widow, Leslyn Stewart, as she addressed a bank of television cameras.

“As a police officer, Dillon served to protect the lives and liberties of all citizens of New York,” Mrs. Stewart said, her eyes wet. Reading from prepared remarks, pages typed in anticipation of a verdict that came as little surprise, she added, “I am happy that the jury sent out the message of justice loud and clear.”

When he is sentenced next month, Mr. Cameron faces a maximum penalty of life in prison with no chance of parole.

From the beginning, the case had stirred outrage. In the early hours of Nov. 28, 2005, Officer Stewart was on patrol outside a nightclub in an unmarked car when he saw a red Infiniti run a stoplight.

He gave chase, pulled alongside the car and ordered the driver to stop.

The driver fired six shots, prosecutors have said, striking Officer Stewart once through the armpit, just above a panel of his bullet-resistant vest. The bullet lodged in his heart, and he died later that morning.

But even wounded, prosecutors have said, Officer Stewart kept up the pursuit. Joined by other officers, he followed the Infiniti to a parking garage. The police fired on the car as it escaped behind a closing door.

Locating a previous owner of the car, investigators obtained Mr. Cameron’s name, tracked his cellphone records, found him in the apartment of a girlfriend and arrested him. He was charged with first-degree murder and several other crimes.

As Mr. Cameron ran the stoplight that night, he was carrying more than 50 small bags of marijuana and a 9-millimeter handgun, the authorities have said. He was on probation for running from the police, wanted on charges that he had assaulted police officers in Philadelphia and suspected of robbing an off-duty officer in Brooklyn.

The case led the city to spend $12 million on new bullet-resistant vests that would provide more coverage of the neck and the sides of the torso. In Albany, lawmakers passed new laws increasing the penalties for weapons possession and crimes against police officers.

But the criminal case lacked a witness. When the trial began last month, Officer Stewart’s partner, Paul J. Lipka, testified that he had seen a lone occupant in the car but could not identify his face. The prosecutors, Mark J. Hale and Thomas C. Ridges, built their case on forensic evidence, calling about 30 witnesses and introducing about 100 pieces of evidence.

The defense lawyers, Edward Friedman and John Burke, argued that the case was built on a rushed investigation and staged evidence. They suggested Officer Stewart had been hit by police gunfire directed at the fleeing car.

After deliberating for half a day, the jurors reached their verdict. As uniformed officers packed the courtroom behind the families of Officer Stewart and Mr. Cameron, Justice Albert Tomei warned them not to make any disturbance. At points during the trial, his courtroom had been interrupted by applause from the police.

In a holding cell beside the courtroom, Mr. Cameron paced back and forth, gripping the white bars from time to time and wiping tears from his face. Anticipating a guilty verdict, he sent his lawyer to remove his ailing mother from the courtroom.

Then Mr. Cameron entered the courtroom, dressed in a dark suit, his hair braided and his eyes bloodshot. He scanned the gallery, watched the jury foreman for a moment, then turned away. After the verdict was announced he was escorted away, to return for sentencing on Nov. 8. Outside the courtroom, his lawyers promised to appeal.

“It’s a sad day for Allan Cameron and Allan Cameron’s family,” Mr. Burke said. “It’s been a series of sad days for Dillon Stewart’s family.”

In a statement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said of the slain officer, “His senseless murder was yet another tragic example of the devastation that illegal guns bring to our communities.” He added that his office would “continue to honor his memory by fighting to keep illegal guns off our streets.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “Although the guilty verdict does nothing to restore the life of Dillon Stewart, I hope it brings some measure of peace to his family, and that it serves as a warning to those who would target police officers that justice will be done.”

The president of the police officers’ union, Patrick J. Lynch, said: “Regrettably, Cameron does not face the fate that he imposed on Dillon Stewart, who was a fine police officer and a loving husband and father. It is time for our elected officials to find the political will to legislate a constitutionally appropriate death penalty for the murder of a police officer.”

But the police officers assembled outside the courtroom, wearing the golden pins of the 70th Precinct and the nearby 72nd, cheered the verdict, the prosecutors and Mrs. Stewart.

“What can I say?” said Dominic Scotto, 43, a detective in the 70th Precinct. “Justice was served.”

Elias E. Lopez contributed reporting