December 6, 2007

Officer Indicted in Death of Unarmed Man

By Associated Press

A police officer has been indicted on a manslaughter charge in the shooting of an unarmed immigrant after a car accident.

Officer Raphael Lora pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter in a Bronx court as the indictment was unsealed yesterday. He was expected to be released on $50,000 bail.

Police have said that Mr. Lora, 37, who was off duty, fired five times while trying to stop Fermin Arzu from leaving the accident scene on May 18. The Honduran immigrant died at the scene.

The shooting happened across the street from the officer's home in the Longwood section of the Bronx.

"The only thing my client is guilty of is protecting the neighborhood he lived in," said the defense lawyer, Stuart London.

An assistant district attorney, Larry Hartstein, arguing for bail, said of the grand jurors: "It's obvious that they did not believe his testimony. They believed there was no justification for the shooting."

Mr. Lora told the grand jury there was a struggle as he tried to stop Arzu, and he fired in self-defense because he feared he would be dragged under the car. Mr. Lora said he had identified himself as a police officer.

"This off-duty officer took action to protect his community from an obviously dangerous drunk driver who had already crashed into two parked vehicles," the Patrolmen's Benovolent Association president, Patrick J. Lynch, said in a statement Wednesday.