Boro Park Betrayed

Behind the Alleged Political and Police Cover-Up in the Killing of Gidone Busch

The Orthodox Jews of Boro Park, who trusted the Giuliani administration—which prevailed on them to remain silent and promised a fair investigation after a young Jewish man was gunned down by police last summer—feel like a community betrayed. The four officers who fired 12 shots that killed Gidone Busch last August 30 walk the streets of New York today, acquitted of all charges.

Doris Busch Boskey, the victim's mother, who plans to file a civil suit next month, says, "I feel betrayed by Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Safir because they should have waited to hear the real facts before incriminating my son on television the day after he was killed. I feel betrayed because they labeled him violently deranged before knowing anything about him. I feel betrayed because I never got a sympathy call from Giuliani and because they had no intention of a fair investigation. I feel betrayed because there was an agenda to not indict the cops from day one."

As Orthodox Jews marched in the streets after Busch, 31, was blown away Diallo-style in front of his apartment building at 1619 46th Street, one prominent Hasidic resident with ties to the NYPD alleges that Bruce Teitelbaum, a key Giuliani aide and liaison to the Jewish community, beseeched religious leaders to calm residents.

Within days, posters headed "Urgent Plea from the Rabbonim," which called upon "all members of the Boro Park community who fear the word of G-d, to stay away from any demonstrations and Chilul Hashem [profaning the name of God]," went up throughout the neighborhood. They were signed by, among others, Rabbi Nafatali Tzvi Halberstam of the Bobover Hasidim, Rabbi Shlomo Gross of the Belzers, and Satmar rabbi Dovid Dov Meisels. (Observers point out that fear of profaning the word of God hasn't stopped pivotal demonstrations in the past in Boro Park and Crown Heights, another Hasidic enclave.)

And the day after the shooting, according to Steven Walz, an editor at the ultra-conservative Jewish Press, "brass from the police department"—including Deputy Commissioner Richard Sheirer—went to the paper, emphasizing "their side of the story." Articles subsequently appeared in the Press in defense of the officers.

In addition, the victim's grieving brother alleges that Noach Dear—a political ally of the mayor—personally intervened on the day of the funeral. As Busch's secular Jewish family mourned his death at their mother and stepfather's home in Dix Hills, Long Island, hundreds of Boro Park residents arrived to pay their respects and convey their support.

Amid the din came a condolence call from Dear. Glenn Busch, a Manhattan attorney, remembers that he was pleased to hear from the Boro Park councilman, and suggested that they organize a protest of some sort in response to the atrocity. According to Busch, Dear told him, "Your brother wouldn't want you to because God wouldn't want you to." Confused, Busch "let it go"—then, that night, watched in horror as Dear appeared on TV alongside Giuliani and Safir, declaring that the shooting had been justified.

Two days later, Mrs. Boskey picked up the phone and found herself talking to Hillary Clinton. They had a 20-minute "mother-to-mother" talk.

It was a hot night last August when the ultra-Orthodox shtetl began to lose its pro-Giuliani, pro-NYPD "innocence." That was the night that Mrs. Boskey's youngest son, Gidone (né Gary) Busch—a spiritual, eccentric Ba'altshuva (newly Orthodox Jew), now labeled a hammer-wielding lunatic—was gunned down in front of numerous passersby. Every witness who has subsequently come forward disputes the officers' story that Busch was attacking a policeman with a hammer when he was shot.

In the aftermath of the shooting, community leaders complied with Giuliani administration pleas to remain calm—and silent—because City Hall and Police Commissioner Howard Safir would make sure that a thorough investigation would take place.

"We now realize that the investigation was not taken seriously," Boro Park rabbi Shmuel Kunda told the Voice. As Kunda put it recently, writing to the faithful in the Jewish Press: "We should not forget this simple but unsettling fact: that the four police officers who killed Gideon [sic] Busch are still walking the streets of Boro Park wearing the very same uniforms and carrying the very same revolvers they used in the shooting."

The change in Boro Park's attitude is perhaps best summed up by a soft-spoken, older neighbor of Busch's, who said he told a black reporter after the shooting, "Yesterday I believed that when the police would shoot down a black man, they had a reason. Now I realize that the police can be animals—and they have the power to cover it up at all costs. The next time a black man gets shot, I'm marching with you."

Immediately after the killing, as residents demonstrated and Reverend Sharpton visited the community to express support, Safir and Giuliani pleaded with local leaders to wait and see what the grand jury would decide. True to form, the Orthodox Jews subsided into silence, continuing to hold out trust in the mayor, unlike the African American community, which rose in unified anger following the attack on Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo.

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