A Wounded Mayor

Diallo Deconstructs Rudy's Racial Rule

Part of the mystery is that Giuliani is our first term-limited mayor and we are only beginning to find out what that might mean. Term limits clearly jumpstarted a four-year job search for him, nationwide at first, statewide now. While Ed Koch's ill-fated gubernatorial run in 1982 disrupted his second term for eight months, Rudy is already in the midst of a two-year hunt for a senate seat. His calendar and his policies have already been subordinated to that goal.

Just as term limits make him less of a mayor, they also make him more of a target. Brian McLaughlin, the head of the Central Labor Council that endorsed Giuliani in 1997, appeared Saturday at the planning session of the Diallo coalition and said that his 500-union organization had passed a resolution backing the protests. The confab and press conference took place at the headquarters of Local 1199, the activist hospital workers' union that surprised everyone and sat out the 1997 election. Neither McLaughlin nor 1199's Dennis Rivera might be as willing to openly challenge a mayor whose powers weren't so inherently circumscribed.

With the Times's editorial page praising Giuliani's baby steps, the mayor's exit strategy may simply be to blame the protesters for crime numbers that started inching upwards before the major protests began, and to insist that he's taken action and it's now up to minorities to replace their "cop-bashing" with his own "cop-boosting" mantra.

But hovering just around the corner are the Abner Louima trial, an April 15 mass Diallo rally, the ongoing state and federal probes of police practices, and a May hearing of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. That combination guarantees that this time the master of media manipulation will be unable to dictate an endgame.

Research: Camila Gamboa, Coco McPherson, Kandea Mosley, Soo-Min Oh, Ron Zapata


Cops Killing Whites

When City Council GOP leader Tom Ognibene and his six colleagues weighed in on the Diallo debacle a few weeks ago, he used Giuliani- supplied data to suggest that "you are in more danger" of being shot by the cops "if you are white and you are subject to arrest for a serious crime than if you are in the black and Hispanic community." Citing the statistic that 13.5 percent of the people who were killed by cops were white, and juxtaposing it to the 7.5 percent of murderers who were white, Ognibene concluded that whites are twice as likely to be "shot during pursuit" as blacks.

With no help from the NYPD, the Voice has since collected details from D.A.'s offices, the medical examiner, neighbors, and others about the circumstances surrounding the 16 cases involving whites killed by cops since Giuliani took office that we could identify. In five cases, the cops shot someone they knew. Patrick Fitzgerald shot his wife, children, and himself in his Orange County home a year ago. Cathleen Byrnes killed Joseph Saglimbeni,the man she lived with in a City Island cottage, just as another officer killed his ex-girlfriend, Bliss Verdon, in Queens in 1997. Steven Soorko shot his drunken brother Douglas at home in 1995 when Douglas swung a chair at him. Richard Molloy is currently on trial in the Bronx for shooting an ex­IRA guerrilla, Hessy Phelan, in Molloy's girlfriend's apartment after the two left a bar together.

Other killings were actually models of police restraint. A half-naked Kevin Cerbelli walked into a Queens precinct last year with a knife and a screwdriver, crazed on cocaine, and stabbed a sergeant in the back. Instead of shooting him, cops fired a taser stun gun at him, but the 50,000 volts did not slow him down, and they finally fired four times at him. Voice interviews with Michael Nunno's widow indicate that cops fired at him only after he opened up on her and two officers with a rifle as they approached her Staten Island house.

Sterling Robertson was killed after he wrote an apparently suicidal letter to YMCA officials and hid in his West Side YMCA room, brandishing a long-blade knife. Police talked to him for an hour, blasted water through an opening in his door in a futile attempt to knock him off his feet, and misfired a tranquilizer dart at him. Finally they tossed a percussion grenade into the room, shocking him into dropping the knife. When two cops rushed in with riot shields, however, he picked up the knife and cut gashes in the shields. One cop fired twice when Robertson tried to reach over his partner's shield to attack him.

Similarly, John Cochran was killed by cops on the East Side in 1996 after writing a note saying he wanted to have a confrontation with cops. Cochran was carrying what police called "an imitation gun," and was shot after he threatened two men on the street with it. Raymond Murray, a college student, was shot by an off-duty cop outside a bar where they both were drinking after Murray and his friends got into a fight with bouncers and Murray got a pellet gun the officer mistook for a rifle. The cop who killed Murray was also a bouncer.

A Queens cop killed Michael Argenio near the cop's Suffolk home after he found Argenio driving over lawns, knocking over trash cans, in the middle of the night. The cop chased Argenio and claimed his gun accidentally discharged twice when he finally caught him.

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