November 13, 2017, 6:00 PM

Acquit Cop in Off-Duty Killing of Angry Driver

Claimed He Was Cut Off

A city Police Officer was acquitted Nov. 6 on murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of an unarmed motorist who confronted him in a traffic dispute on the cop’s drive home from work. The motorist’s family and its supporters made clear they did not believe justice had been done.

“You all are murderers!” Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter New York, shouted at the jurors. “How could you let him free?”

‘Can’t Represent NYPD’

The brother of victim Delrawn Small was pushed out of the courtroom by Court Officers. “This is a guy we need to get off the streets,” said Victor Dempsey of Officer Wayne Isaacs. “He cannot represent the NYPD. He cannot represent law enforcement.”

Mr. Isaacs, who is 38, was driving home from a shift at Brooklyn’s 79th Precinct when he encountered Mr. Small’s car on Atlantic Ave. around midnight July 4, 2016. Mr. Small’s girlfriend, Zaquanna Albert, and her 14-year-old daughter testified that Mr. Isaacs had cut them off.

Mr. Small, who was 37, got out of the car and approache­d Mr. Isaacs, who was behind the wheel. Mr. Isaacs shot him three times. He said Mr. Small had punched him in the face. However, surveillance video (click here) showed the shooting was almost instantaneous once Mr. Small reached the vehicle.

Two jurors told the New York Times that they saw Mr. Smalls punch Mr. Isaacs on the video. The paper wrote, “The revelation cleared up any doubt among jurors that Officer Isaacs had been hit, [one juror] said: ‘It was black and white in a video, you know.’”

Mr. Isaacs testified that he feared for his life as Mr. Small came toward him. “At this point, I’m thinking, you know, I’m here in East New York at that time of the night, and I’m thinking maybe somebody recognizes me from a previous arrest or was I going to be carjacked.”

What Law Allows

State law allows the use of deadly force when a person reasonably believes an assailant is using or is about to use lethal force. Civilians have a duty to retreat if safe options are available, but police officers are under no such obligation.

Mr. Isaacs admitted that he did not identify himself as a police officer.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said: “There are no winners or losers in a trial like this whenever a life is lost under any circumstances. We are grateful to the jury for weighing all of the evidence in this case and for arriving at a proper and just verdict. No police officer wants to carry the burden of having killed a person under any conditions. But unfortunately, there is no script for police officers who have to take action when they are presented with dangerous circumstances either on or off duty.”

The shooting was the first one prosecuted by the office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was given the power by Governor Cuomo to investigate any civilian death in the state at the hands of law enforcement. His office has so far investigated six such cases and decided not to prosecute the earlier ones. It is looking at five more.

AG: ‘Disappointed’

“We are disappointed by the verdict, but we respect the jury’s determination and thank them for their service,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement. “I also want to thank the family of Delrawn Small for their courage and perseverance in the face of tragedy.”

Mr. Dempsey and Victoria Davis, Mr. Small’s sister, released a statement through Communities United for Police Reform saying, “We now call on Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner O’Neill to immediately fire Officer Wayne Isaacs from the police department…The fact that Officer Isaacs failed to protect public safety—shooting Delrawn three times and then failing to administer emergency care or even alert 911 to the fact that he shot him, which led to Delrawn bleeding out on the street and dying—is a clear indication that he doesn’t deserve the responsibility of being a police officer.”

They added, “The fact that Officer Isaacs was black does not diminish the systemic issues of racialized fear and the criminalization of blackness that allow a jury to consider the killing of an unarmed black man by a police officer as justified.”

A Diverse Jury

The jury was composed of five whites, five blacks, one Latino and one Asian, according to the Daily News.

The NYPD said after the verdict that Mr. Isaacs will remain on modified duty, doing administrative work without his gun or badge, while the department conducts its own investigation of the shooting. Administrative charges against him are possible.

Ms. Albert and Mr. Small’s widow, Winona Small, have filed separate lawsuits against the city.