Day after Families are Forced to Celebrate Father’s Day without Fathers who were Killed by NYPD, Family Members Demand Action from Mayor de Blasio
Families of Eric Garner, Delrawn Small & Saheed Vassell call for accountability and transparency for killings by NYPD officers, calling for firings and release of information
The families of Eric Garner, Delrawn Small, and Saheed Vasell – all fathers who missed Father’s Day with their families – and their community supporters called for Mayor de Blasio to take immediate action to hold the officers who killed them accountable. All of the families are being denied accountability by the de Blasio administration, with the NYPD failing to take actions to discipline and fire the officers responsible and withholding vital information from the families and public.
The four-year mark of Eric Garner’s killing is just weeks away and NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the other officers who used force against him, and officers who lied on the official police report about that use of force have not faced any discipline from the NYPD. Garner was killed on Staten Island after being placed in a NYPD-banned chokehold by Officer Pantaleo while Garner pleaded “I can’t breathe” at least eleven times and other officers joined in using excessive force against him or did nothing to stop it. The de Blasio administration has claimed that it is waiting for the Trump administration DOJ to act on Pantaleo’s case, but local jurisdictions and departments are not required to delay disciplinary processes for the Justice Department and often do not. The South Carolina police officer who killed Walter Scott was fired by his police department before the federal government charged him with civil rights violations. The last time an NYPD officer was convicted by the Justice Department for violations in the killing of a civilian was after the 1994 chokehold killing of Anthony Baez by Officer Francis Livoti. The NYPD conducted a disciplinary trial and fired Livoti before the DOJ acted, and the NYPD trial contributed to the DOJ prosecution. Additionally, the de Blasio administration has also taken no action against the other officers who used force or lied on initial reports to cover up the use of force, who have not been identified as targets of the federal investigation.
“It’s been nearly four years since my son Eric Garner was murdered by the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio has done nothing to hold the many officers responsible accountable,” said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner. “This is the fourth Father's Day that my son couldn’t spend with his family yesterday, and yet Officer Daniel Pantaleo and the other officers who killed my son and engaged in misconduct are receiving higher taxpayer-funded salaries today than when my son was killed. Mayor de Blasio has done nothing about police accountability in this city - he just keeps making it worse by making the police less transparency by misusing state law 50-a. The mayor’s complete failure to ensure the NYPD officers who killed my son and so many others accountable will be his lasting legacy on policing. It shouldn’t take four or even two years to discipline officers for unjustly killing New Yorkers, and it shouldn’t take more than 10 weeks to release the names of officers who kill. It’s shameful. Pantaleo must be fired immediately, and the other officers who killed Eric and engaged in misconduct to try covering it up – who the mayor has no excuse not to take action against – must be fired immediately.”
Delrawn Small was killed in front of his partner, 4-month-old son, and 14-year-old stepdaughter by NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs almost two years ago on July 4, 2016. It was just one day before Alton Sterling was killed by police in Louisiana and two days before Philando Castile was killed by police in Minnesota. Video footage showed that Small was walking up to Isaacs’ car on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn when he was immediately shot, contradicting the initial accounts of Isaacs and the NYPD that the officer was being physically assaulted. After shooting Small, Isaacs left him to bleed to death on the ground, offering no emergency aid and never even communicating that he had shot someone in his 911 call. Isaacs was acquitted of second degree murder in a jury trial that ended in November 2017. Since then, the NYPD has taken no action to hold Isaacs accountable and he has continued to remain in the department receiving annual pay increases and overtime.
Victoria Davis and Victor Dempsey, the sister and brother of Delrawn Small said: “NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs murdered our brother Delrawn Small, a father-figure who basically raised us and a father to his own children, in cold blood almost two years ago. Because of Isaacs, we and others in our family cannot celebrate Father’s Day with Delrawn. What makes it even worse is that Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill still haven't taken any action to hold Isaacs accountable by firing him from the NYPD. Instead he is making a higher salary now than when he killed Delrawn. There is no excuse for de Blasio and O’Neill to allow Isaacs to remain on the NYPD, as a threat to New Yorkers’ public safety. He has demonstrated that he does not deserve to be a so-called peace officer when he is so trigger happy that he shoots and kills unarmed people who are simply approaching his car, fails to alert 911 to the shooting, gives no aid to the person he shot, and then lies about the incident. Mayor de Blasio must make sure the NYPD holds officers accountable when they brutalize and kill in our communities – NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs must be fired.”
Saheed Vassell was killed by NYPD officers in broad daylight in a hail of at least 10 bullets on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Four out of five officers on the scene reportedly shot at Saheed immediately upon arriving and exiting their cars, similar to how 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police officers in Cleveland. The officers were members of the militarized counterterrorism Strategic Response Group unit and the hyper-aggressive anti-crime unit. Some witnesses have said officers offered no warning and that there was nothing in Vassell’s hands, despite police accounts that he had a metal pipe at the moment he was shot. Vassell’s killing was at least the fourth questionable NYPD killing of a Black or Latinx New Yorker in a 9 month-span (Dwayne Jeune, Miguel Richards and Mario Sanabria are the others). Instead of being transparent and releasing information, the NYPD sought to demonize Vassell with a propaganda campaign that included the release of selective information and unethical – and possibly unlawful – leak of information. Nearly 11 weeks after the killing, the de Blasio administration has refused to release the names, misconduct histories and unedited video of the officers who killed Vassell, despite the fact that other city police departments routinely release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours.
“Saheed should have been able to spend Father’s Day with me, his own son, and our family yesterday, but because NYPD officers murdered him in a hail of bullets in broad daylight, that was not possible,” said Eric Vassell, the father of Saheed Vassell. “What makes it worse is that over two months after NYPD officers murdered our Saheed, Mayor de Blasio is still refusing to provide basic transparency that my family needs to fight for accountability for his killing. It seems like this Mayor and the NYPD are not committed to the truth, they have something to hide. They continue to withhold basic information that other cities across the country routinely release – the names of officers involved in shootings and unedited footage of the officers. How can this be the fairest big city in the nation when we have a mayor and police department that is more committed to hiding information to shield abusive officers than being transparent about police actions and misconduct? Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD must release the names, misconduct histories, and full video footage of the officers involved in killing our son.”
Garner, Small and Vassell are among many New Yorkers who have been killed by the NYPD during the mayoral administration of Bill de Blasio. In all of those cases, the de Blasio administration has failed to ensure officers are held accountable and has withheld information from the public. The lack of transparency impedes the ability to hold officers accountable and the lack of accountability only perpetuates the police killings of civilians. The de Blasio administration has taken the city back nearly two decades on police transparency and has done nothing to address the NYPD’s long-standing failure to hold officers accountable when the brutalize or kill civilians and engage in other misconduct.
Anthonine Pierre, Deputy Director of Brooklyn Movement Center said: “Saheed Vassell, both a father and a son, should be celebrating this Father’s Day with his family. Instead, 11 weeks after being killed by NYPD officers, his family is in mourning and Mayor de Blasio has ignored demands for the names and misconduct records of all officers involved. We stand with the Vassell family and all families of those slain by police to demand justice and transparency on behalf of their loved ones. When police officers fail to be held accountable for killing civilians, families are devastated, communities are traumatized and our safety as New Yorkers is threatened.”
Justice Committee Co-Director Loyda Colon said: “When the NYPD killed Eric Garner, Delrawn Small and Saheed Vassell, they stole loving fathers away from their children and families. In the case of Delrawn Small, NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs murdered Delrawn in front of 2 of his children and his partner. Now these children are forced to live without the support and care of their fathers, while trying to make sense of the fact that they were killed by those who are supposed to “protect and serve.” They are forced to move forward knowing that these officers are still collecting city paychecks, getting overtime, and receiving promotions, while at the same time being told they are not allowed to know if their fathers’ killers will ever be held accountable, or in the case of the Vassell family - they may never learn the names of the officers who killed Saheed Vassell. Too many families of those killed by police cannot get answers and run up against politics and systemic barriers to police transparency and accountability, and it tears their wounds wider. The lies told by the NYPD after Garner, Small and Vassell were killed are all about protecting abusive officers and is another form of violence - the NYPD is not only disappearing members of our communities, it’s tearing families apart and traumatizing entire communities and generations.”
Council Member Antonio Reynoso said: “Today I stand in solemn solidarity with family members of Eric Garner, Delrawn Small, and Saheed Vassell and Communities United for Police Reform. In light of Father’s Day, we remember these men and the roles that they played as fathers before their lives were cut short by police violence. In all three of these cases, the NYPD demonstrated gross misconduct and lack of transparency. The deaths of Small, Vassell, and Garner must not go in vain; it is our responsibility to deliver justice on their behalf by demanding that the NYPD adopt greater transparency and accountability.”
Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, stated: “Another Father’s Day has passed, and the children of Eric Garner, Delrawn Small, and Saheed Vassell spent it without their father because of NYPD brutality. For all three of these men, their families know next to nothing about the officers involved in their killings and what the Department is doing to address these tragedies. The Legal Aid Society stands with Communities United for Police Reform, Families United 4 Justice and others calling on City Hall to stop blocking action and transparency. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.