Raising Patrick Bailey

The painful journey for justice for an unsung victim of alleged police brutality

Last April, assistant corporation counsel Grant Cornehls met with the parents to evaluate their claim of emotional distress. A routine hearing, intended as a forum to elicit evidence about the impact of the tragedy on the victim's family, degenerated into a barrage of hostile questioning that left Mrs. Bailey, 52, sobbing and pleading, "[W]hat does that have to do with my son's death?"

The city, it seemed, had put Patrick Bailey and his parents on trial.

The Baileys were interrogated separately in the presence of attorney Casilda Roper-Simpson, who repeatedly challenged Cornehls about the legality of his tactics. Despite her objections, Cornehls pried into Patrick Bailey's background.

"Was Patrick ever arrested?" the city lawyer demanded of the victim's father, a 52-year-old health-care worker.

"I heard that he had some former incident with some guy that was living in the apartment," replied Mr. Bailey, who seemed thrown off by the question but struggled to muster an explanation. "What happened is the guy was moving out without paying the rent and [Patrick held] onto a television, but I think that case was thrown out. . . ."

When Cornehls asked for the former tenant's name, Roper-Simpson objected, reminding her adversary that the purpose of the hearing was to allow the city to gather information about the shooting, not the victim's past.

But Cornehls persisted.

"Do you know whether Patrick was arrested for robbery in 1992?"

"He's not answering that!" Roper-Simpson intervened.

"Do you know whether he was arrested for robbery in 1996?"

"He's not answering that question either!"

"Do you know whether Patrick belonged to a gang?"

"He's not answering that question either!"

"Do you know whether Patrick owned any weapons?" Cornehls shot back.

Roper-Simpson became enraged. "Now, I'm not sure why you're asking him these questions," she snapped.

After an off-the-record exchange Cornehls continued grilling the father. "Did Patrick own a Remington shotgun?"

"Don't answer," Roper-Simpson advised.

There may have been hundreds of gang members with Remington shotguns in the city on Halloween night 1997. A special squad of cops was patrolling black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and police had stepped up surveillance in the subway stations because of rumors that members of the Bloods gang planned violence to create a citywide scare.

Among the plainclothes anti-crime officers who fanned out in "Operation Red Bandana" that night under a directive from the mayor were, according to witnesses to the Bailey shooting, Kenneth Boss and two other cops, including a sergeant.

Witnesses interviewed by Casilda Roper-Simpson and Charles Barron said that about 11:25 p.m., an alleged drug dealer, who had been warned earlier that day by Patrick Bailey not to sell drugs in front of his mother's house, stopped an unmarked police car. He reportedly told the officers— later identified as Boss and his partners— that Bailey had menaced him with a shotgun. Roper-Simpson and Barron claim that when the drug dealer spotted Bailey and two friends, Deborah Chuck and Horace Campbell, as they walked to a grocery, he accosted them as the cops looked on.

"The witnesses, who were with Patrick at the time, said that the drug dealer had his hand in his waistband like he had a gun," Barron recalls. "It's strange for someone who is being accompanied by the police to act like that."

"One of the many theories we have is that the drug dealer was used as an informant by police," adds Roper-Simpson. "It was a setup," she charges. The drug dealer, according to the Bailey family advisers, "cornered" Campbell. Bailey and Chuck, Campbell's girlfriend, bolted and ran back to 731 Sheffield Avenue.

"The police, who were with the drug dealer, gave chase," says Barron. Witnesses told the activist that the pursuing cops kicked open the front door and an inner door and barged in. "They had to come in right behind him because Patrick was running down the stairs to the basement," Barron theorizes.

That's when shots rang out and Patrick stumbled down the stairs. "Kenneth Boss fired," Barron claims. "His two bullets hit Patrick." A bullet grazed Deborah Chuck. "She had to be in front of Patrick because she got hit in the back of her knee," Barron argues. Chuck told the advisers that as Bailey lay gasping for breath, bleeding profusely, one officer ground his knee in Bailey's chest and handcuffed him. "I'm going to kill you, motherfucker!" Chuck remembered the officer shouting.

Barron says that Chuck and at least two other witnesses feared they were being attacked by a gang. "She didn't know they were police because of the way the drug dealer had led the chase."

In their multi-million-dollar federal complaint, the Bailey family alleges that "negligent, careless [and] reckless" cops left Patrick to die. Roper-Simpson claims that an independent autopsy performed by Dr. Barbara Wolf determined that Bailey's "wounds were survivable." She says Wolf concluded that Bailey "bled to death."

Barron says that prosecutors in the Brooklyn D.A.'s office told him that Bailey was shot at 11:37 p.m., and that police called for paramedics two minutes later. EMS allegedly failed to respond, and the cops placed another call at 11:46 p.m. The medical examiner's autopsy notes state that paramedics brought Bailey to Brookdale Hospital at 12:17 a.m. on November 1. "What were the cops doing with Patrick Bailey after 11:39 p.m.?" Barron asks. "He gets to the hospital at 12:17— that's 40 minutes."

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