By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"His life is in danger as a result of his cooperating with [the investigation concerning] the illicit gun trafficking," she asserted. The judge denied bail. (Sergeant Andrew McInnis, an NYPD spokesperson, says the IAB investigates all allegations of corruption made against cops, "but that has no bearing on the fact that this officer was shot by a suspect who is going to face prosecution.")Unlike Officer Vincent Ling, Lester Pearson was eager to tell his story. Shortly after he was taken into custody, Pearson gave his version of the events surrounding the alleged gun battle to an assistant district attorney and three detectives from the D.A.'s office in the presence of his attorney.
According to Roper-Simpson, Pearson recalled that on the night of December 29, after leaving a nightclub, he stopped at a store to buy a cigar. After entering the premises, he saw Ling stagger through the front door, go to the back of the store, and pick up a beer. Upon spotting Pearson, Ling allegedly approached and asked, "Wassup?"
"What you mean wassup?" Pearson sneered. "You got some nerve saying something to me after we've been having all these problems." (Among their alleged encounters were a fistfight at a barbecue and an altercation in which Ling brandished a gun at one of Pearson's friends as Pearson was unlocking the front door to his parents' home.) Pearson rebuffed Ling's overture and the two men argued. Once again, the confrontation seemed headed for fisticuffs. Pearson and Ling took their jackets off, but instead of coming to blows, Ling allegedly drew his gun and jammed it against Pearson's face.
Roper-Simpson recalls that the assistant D.A. asked Pearson if he was afraid, and Pearson replied he was not because Ling "does this all the time; he's been doing this for years. He always pulled guns on us, fooling around with his gun." She says Pearson berated Ling, telling the cop he couldn't even shoot a fly. "He said he didn't take the cop seriously," Roper-Simpson adds. "He told him everything he could think of; he just kept dissing him real hard." At this point, Pearson's girlfriend intervened, trying to separate them. As she tugged at Pearson's shirt, Pearson kept warning her they shouldn't turn their backs on Ling: "You gotta watch this guy!" During the standoff, someone walked into the store and asked Ling what was taking him so long. Ling, according to Pearson's statement, then ran outside behind a tree, took up a defensive posture, and aimed his weapon at Pearson and his girlfriend.
Roper-Simpson says shots suddenly rang out and Pearson, who she insists was not armed, took cover behind his Navigator. Now both Ling and the stranger, she claims, were firing at Pearson. Ling, she maintains, was hit by friendly fire. "I could only assume that when this guy heard the shots he ran, shooting, to defend his friend because he first saw [Pearson] coming from behind the van," she hypothesizes. "So that's the bullet that hit the cop." After Ling was shot, the third man chased after Pearson while firing at him.
Roper-Simpson says Pearson then heard what sounded like a car crashing, and more shots. "Somebody was shooting into the car," the attorney says. Pearson's girlfriend, who was behind the wheel, was shot in the thigh. She was treated at Jacobi Medical Center and released. Roper-Simpson claims that Pearson was beaten by guards shortly after he was arraigned and returned to a holding pen in the back of the courthouse. "When I went to the back to speak with him and inquired as to where he was, I was completely ignored," she says. "The police officer there told me he could not help. A female correction officer told me she didn't know where he was, and another male officer told me that I could not go downstairs to speak to him."
The attorney says that while trying to ascertain where Pearson was being held, she heard him shouting and he was then escorted by a correction officer and an NYPD detective to the area where she was waiting. She says Pearson complained that the officer wanted to fingerprint him to get "prints for his wall and for his friend Ling," insinuating that cops were upset because she had bypassed the NYPD and negotiated the terms of Pearson's surrender with prosecutors. "When I attempted to inquire of the detective as to why he needed Mr. Pearson's prints when he was already live-scanned [electronically fingerprinted] at the D.A.'s office, the officer left."
After Roper-Simpson left, Pearson allegedly was removed from his cell by correction officers and taken to a reception area. When he resisted, he allegedly was beaten. "He suffered bruises to his head and experienced pain in his rib cage area," Roper-Simpson claims, adding that Pearson demanded to see a doctor, but was denied medical treatment. An indication of her client's condition, she says, is that when Pearson boarded a bus to be transported from the Bronx House of Detention to Rikers Island, the driver reportedly refused to escort him, fearing that he might be held responsible for Pearson's injuries.