Wall Street Journal
March 5, 2011

Police Cleared in Melee

Grand Jury Declines to Bring Charges in Harlem Shooting


A special grand jury decided Friday not to bring charges against the police officers involved in a fatal East Harlem shooting last summer.

The decision not to indict the officers came two days after the same panel voted to dismiss charges against another man, Angel Alvarez, who was involved in the shooting. The 24-year-old Mr. Alvarez, who survived more than 20 bullet wounds in the shootout, had initially been charged with criminal weapons possession.

Police officers were never charged in the incident. But prosecutors called for the special panel to investigate all the circumstances surrounding the August 2010 shooting, which claimed the life of Bronx resident Luis Soto.

Forty-six of the 50 bullets fired in the melee were fired by four police officers, and authorities later said the fatal shot was likely a police bullet. Officers, some of whom were in plainclothes, were responding to a fight between Messrs. Alvarez and Soto in the midst of a heavily attended block party.

"It is reassuring to see that this grand jury based its decision on the facts of the case and not on fiction from the streets," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, a union that represents police officers. Officers Michael Tedeschi, Thomas Cozart and Douglas Brightman and Sgt. Paul Kerrigan were involved in the shooting.

A law-enforcement source said the special grand jury's decision effectively closes the investigation.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to comment Friday.

Though police said Mr. Alvarez shot at them, his lawyers repeatedly denied that he ever fired at police. They said Mr. Alvarez wrestled a gun away from Mr. Soto in self-defense during a tussle. In a statement, attorneys for Mr. Alvarez said despite the grand jury's decision they thought the officers "should be held fully responsible for the tremendous injury they caused him."

Mr. Alvarez has said he plans to sue the police over the incident.

Write to Chris Herring at chris.herring@wsj.com