The city has agreed to pay $2 million to the parents of an unarmed Brooklyn teen who was fatally shot by a police officer three years ago. In January 2004, police officer Richard Neri was patrolling a Brooklyn rooftop with another officer at 1AM. Around the same time the other officer had opened a door to the stairwell, Timothy Stansbury and his friends were heading upstairs, to go to a party in another building in the Louis Armstrong Houses development by crossing over the roofs. But Neri had fired his gun and Stansbury died an hour and a half later. The NY Times has a particularly evocative illustration of the circumstances of the death.
The incident sparked a number of questions about police conduct in poor neighborhoods and with minorities, as well as how the police brass react to shootings. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg quickly acted to speak out against the shooting, which brought criticism from the police union. Neri, who said his gun went off accidentally, was not indicted by a grand jury (a mostly black and Latino grand jury, according to the Village Voice) and has since become a police union rep in the Brooklyn North area. Stansbury did not have a criminal record; he worked at McDonald's and was working on his GED.
Stansbury's mother Phyllis Clayburne, who is a city crossing guard, said, "It is what it is. When you're black, you don't get justice. A trillion dollars won't bring my son back. Neri is going to get to retire in four years. He's going to watch his children grow up. He's going to have a full life. But my son will never have that." The city's Law Department said, “The death of Timothy Stansbury Jr. was a tragedy, and we offer our condolences to his family. We believe the settlement is in the best interests of all parties, and hope it will provide some small measure of comfort.”
One of Stansbury's friends was in the process of making a short film about gun violence in Bedford-Stuyvesant when Stansbury was killed; the film is Bullets in the Hood. And one incident that also questioned the training of police officers: In 2003, an undercover police officer shot an unarmed African immigrant at a Chelsea mini-storage. The officer, Bryan Conroy, was participating in counterfeit CD sting when he came across Ousmane Zongo, who was restoring art. Zongo was shot four times in the back; Conroy claimed the area was too dark, while prosecutors said he was trigger happy. Conroy was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and was given probation; Zongo's family was awarded a $3 million settlement.