January 28, 2004

PBA Chief Works to Ensure There Is No Rush to Judgment

Staff Reporter of the Sun

A third witness has come forward to testify in the “unjustified” shooting death of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Brooklyn, District Attorney Charles Hynes said yesterday.

The new mystery witness is expected to offer more evidence to corroborate the statements of two youths who were with Timothy Stansbury Jr. when he was killed at the rooftop stairwell early Saturday at the Louis Armstrong public houses at 385 Lexington Ave. in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section.

Mr. Hynes said the new witness has come forward after interviews with the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. Police and investigators would not reveal who the witness is, whether he or she saw the actual shooting or where the witness was at the time.

Mr. Hynes said the grand jury could begin hearing testimony about the shooting from witnesses and police as early as today. Investigators have spoken with the two friends of Stansbury, Officer Richard Neri, who shot him, and Mr. Neri’s partner, Jason Hallik.

Mr. Neri’s lawyer said his client might be available to testify before the grand jury.

The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, met with Mr. Hynes yesterday to insure “there isn’t a rush to judgment,” he said. Mr. Hynes, he said, promised to conduct a thorough probe.

Mr. Lynch criticized Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly for deeming the shooting “not justified” only 11 hours after the incident.

“This was definitely a rush to judgement on the commissioner’s part,” he said. “You cannot have been able to come up with a conclusion without interviewing every witness involved. We were all taken aback that so shortly after this incident the police commissioner would come out and say there was no justification.”

He said Officer Neri is eager to step forward to tell his side of the story before the district attorney’s investigators, downplaying reports the officer was unwilling to speak with authorities.

“Traditionally, the police officer is the last person to testify in cases like these,” he said.

Mr. Lynch defended the policy of police doing “vertical” patrols of stairways and rooftops with guns drawn because of the increase in serious crime at the housing project.

“In the past year, crime at that very same housing project is up 31%,” he claimed. “We are constantly changing our tactics to fit the situation.”

Mayor Bloomberg defended Mr. Kelly’s quick assessment of the shooting, saying the public needed to know.

“It looked to us pretty obvious that there was no justification, and the public had a right to know,” the mayor said.

Officer Neri and his partner have been placed on modified assignments.

A funeral service for Stansbury will be held Friday at the Friendship Baptist Church in Brooklyn, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.