The family of the Bronx bodega worker killed in August by a man who grabbed a cop's gun from its holster is planning to sue the city and the officer for $20 million, according to a court filing. Lawyers for the family of the victim, Wali Camara, 49, announced the lawsuit today.
Camara was working at A&M Deli on Valentine Avenue near Lehman College early the morning of August 9th when police say he got into an argument with a panhandler named Efrain Guzman. Camara gave Guzman the boot, and when he tried to beg at a nearby store, a fight erupted, Camara rushed to the store to help, and workers called police.
Officer Jorge Monge was one of the cops who responded, and police say that when Monge tried to remove Guzman, Guzman grabbed Monge's 9-mm pistol from its holster and let off 15 rounds. One bullet caught Camara in the groin, killing him. Monge's partner shot and wounded Guzman.
The notice of claim names Monge, the city, and the NYPD, accusing them of sharing blame for Camara's death, and negligence in hiring, training, and supervision. Monge, lawyers plan to argue, failed to use care as he escorted Guzman away from the store, failed to handcuff him, and failed to safeguard his gun. The city also knowingly uses "shoddy" gun holsters with an easy-to-open clasp mechanism, the notice states. The holster, according to the filing, "allowed this individual easier access to [the] weapon and make [sic] Police Officers susceptible to having their weapons taken from their holsters."
The Daily News reported after Camara's death that the NYPD bought the holsters at a discount in the 1990s after the LAPD passed on them because they were too chintzy, and that it's common for officers to have to replace the holsters in the course of their careers.
In October, the NYPD announced to officers that the department will replace the holsters with new, auto-locking ones.
"We saw that there might have been an issue with that," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill told reporters, referring to "that incident up in the Bronx."
"So going forward, there’s a different level [of holster] that we’re going to," O'Neill added.
The notice of claim says that the Civilian Complaint Review Board, NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, and anti-corruption Mollen Commission all criticized the holsters or the NYPD's holstering training. The NYPD and CCRB did not immediately confirm this, and a worker at the firm representing Camara's family said he could not point us to documents backing the assertion.
Camara immigrated to the U.S. from Timbuktu in 1992, and sent most of his money to relatives, including his son, who is in medical school in Paris, his sister told the New York Post. Camara was buried in a family plot in Mali.
Monge remains on active duty, according to an NYPD spokesperson.