Boro Park Betrayed

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

Even the witnesses to the Busch shooting—who concur that at no point did Busch swing a hammer at anyone—believed that a fair investigation would take place. Then, on November 1, came the appalling news: the grand jury had exonerated all four of the officers who fired at Busch and had found the killing of the frail, 31-year-old ex-medical student totally justified.

Outraged, Congressman Jerrold Nadler met last month with Attorney General Janet Reno to plead for a federal investigation. On January 14, Mrs. Boskey and Gary's father, Norman Busch, filed a statement with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The family's legal team, which has filed a "notice of claim" with the city, includes Ellen Yaroshefsky, Barry Scheck, and Johnnie Cochran (Scheck and Cochran also represent the Louima family and formerly represented the Diallos), assisted by New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Norman Siegel.

The last day of Gidone Busch's life, he was going through an "emotional crisis," according to his mother. Recently engaged, he had also befriended a homeless, non-Jewish man, who spent time in his house. In addition, according to Mrs. Boskey, her son was disoriented because he was nearsighted and had left his glasses at her house on a recent visit. She had just mailed them to him. (Police allege that Busch also may have been smoking marijuana, which was found in his apartment.)

Twice that evening the cops came to his apartment, responding first at 5:44 to a neighbor's complaint that Busch was playing loud music and dancing in the streets while indecently dressed. According to a witness, Joseph Horowitz, when an officer arrived, Busch—by then fully dressed—reached to shake the cop's hand, at which point the officer allegedly responded, "I don't want to touch your disgusting hand," then added, "You better behave—we don't want to come back." (As reported in Newsday, Horowitz said Busch told the cops he wasn't feeling well, and asked to be taken to a hospital. The officers refused, later explaining that he wasn't doing anything illegal at that time.)

About an hour later, the 66th Precinct received another call about Busch, this time alleging "strange behavior."

Raphael Eisenberg, who lives several blocks away and did not know the victim, noticed two policemen with nightsticks approaching Busch's building. He became curious and followed them. Eisenberg told the Voice he then saw "a man with a hammer" standing in a basement-apartment doorway. He said the cops called for backup as Sergeant Terrence O'Brien descended the stairs to confront Busch.

Then things turned ugly. Despite a 1997 CCRB recommendation that pepper spray not be used on emotionally disturbed persons, Officer Daniel Gravitch allegedly pepper-sprayed Busch, who then, according to Eisenberg, ran blindly up the stairs, screaming, in an attempt to get away from his attacker. In so doing, according to Eisenberg, Busch bumped into O'Brien, who police believe may have been scratched by the hammer.

Witnesses said Busch ran onto the sidewalk, holding the hammer over his head ("like it had some religious power," says Eisenberg), then turned to face the cops, still screaming, with his back against the wall of an adjacent building. Six officers closed in, forming a semicircle around Busch—at least four feet from him—while other cops gathered in the background.

According to 16-year-old Aaron Gerlitt, one cop yelled, "Drop it or we'll shoot." Said Eisenberg, "All I could hear was Busch screaming. His back was to the wall, with the hammer over his head." Another witness, Abe Jacobowitz, concurred. "Busch wasn't moving, he wasn't gesturing with the hammer." According to Gerlitt, one cop counted to three, and then fired a shot. There was a pause. Then four cops pumped 11 more bullets into the victim. (O'Brien, 35—who, according to The New York Times, fired half the shots that hit Busch—has 12 previous CCRB complaints, two for force, which were substantiated. Officer William Loshavio, 28, who fired twice, has 19 previous complaints, three of which were substantiated. Sergeant Joseph Memoly, 29, who fired three shots, has one previous complaint, for which he was exonerated. Officer Martin Sanabria, 31, who fired one shot, has no previous complaints.)

Stunned, Eisenberg recalls that he asked one officer, "Why did you shoot him?" He says the cop did not respond.

Adding to the eeriness of the scene, witnesses noticed Busch's tefillin (small leather boxes containing scriptural passages, which are bound to the arm with straps) on the steps. Tefillin are used only during prayer.

The officers huddled as Busch lay bleeding to death. Later, a caller to Brian Lehrer on WNYC charged that an ambulance from Hatzoloh (the volunteer medical service that is staffed and paid for by the community) was prevented for 15 minutes by the police from attending to Busch. He was dead on arrival at Maimonides Hospital.

That night, several neighborhood sources allege, detectives questioning witnesses crossed off the names of people who said that the shooting had been unprovoked. One neighbor claims he saw a detective throw away notes he'd been taking after a woman told him that the police had committed an atrocity. (Due to what he described as "an ongoing investigation," NYPD detective Vincent Gravelli declined to comment on these charges as well as any others put forth in this piece.)

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