The funeral of Fermin Arzu was not as much a memorial as an event to condemn his death at the hands of an off-duty police officer - we think. As a husband, father, and uncle was being remembered, community activists and the media were conducting a referendum on racial relations and police conduct. Comparisons were drawn between Arzu's shooting and that of Sean Bell, who was killed in a hail of police gunfire in November of last year. Bell's fiancée (Bell was killed the day before his wedding) actually attended Arzu's funeral yesterday and was escorted there by the Reverend Al Sharpton. Sharpton also gave the eulogy; he said, "Mr. Arzu came to this country to pursue the American dream. He ended up being the American nightmare."
Someone leaked Arzu's post mortem toxicology reports late last week, that showed the man was intoxicated when he was shot driving from a fender-bender incident in the middle of the night. That reminds us of when Rudy Giuliani was Mayor and Patrick Dorismond's sealed juvenile police records were leaked in the wake of his shooting after the man objected to being propositioned as a drug dealer and was killed by police in a resultant scuffle.
The account of Arzu's death is muddied to say the least. The New York Times describes varying scenarios where a gun was perhaps being reached for, no gun was produced and that was clear, Officer Lora (who shot Arzu) was pinned and dragged as Arzu attempted to flee from an accident scene, Arzu was reportedly drunk, irrational, and unreasonable, and Lora was possibly trying to keep up with a fleeing vehicle when he started shooting. It all sounds like a total disaster to us. One bullet did hit Arzu in the back, killing him, and four other bullets were recovered from his vehicle.
Fermin Arzu will be buried in Honduras. He was a member of the Bronx's Garifuno community, who are descendants of West African slaves transported to the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean and Arawak Indian. He was 46 years old, performed in a group called The Rio Tinto Stars Band, fathered six children and had a fiancée who is a cancer patient.
(AP Photo by Michael Hardy)