Boro Park Betrayed

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

The next day, Safir announced that the police had seven witnesses who supported the cops' version of the story. He has yet to bring them forth. On October 5, Jayson Blair of The New York Times wrote that "investigators now believe that none of the six officers at the scene of the shooting had been struck with the hammer, and . . . no witnesses could be found to confirm Mr. Safir's version of events."

Eisenberg, who later testified before the grand jury, says it was evident to him from the start that it was a kangaroo court. He feels that Assistant District Attorney Jay Shapiro tried to discredit his testimony on minutia. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes's career is based on his relationship with the cops, Eisenberg notes. "And," he adds, "that was clear" during the grand jury proceedings.

As early as four days after the shooting, some in the Orthodox community began to sense a cover-up. Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a strident Giuliani foe, produced six witnesses whose accounts differed markedly from the police officers'. Feeling betrayed by the cops who had paid a visit earlier that week, the Jewish Press began publishing furious editorials. A few weeks later, at a meeting with Safir, Boro Park Jewish leaders told him that they and their congregations were concerned about how the police had acted. Then a leader of the Agudat Israel Movement, which represents all the ultra-Orthodox groups in Boro Park, wrote Safir that there is "a widespread sense that something went terribly wrong."

Glenn Busch had had the same feeling: "When I got to the police station the night Gary was killed," he told the Voice, "all they wanted to know was Gary's medical history. I knew they were up to something."

According to Ellen Yaroshefsky, who heads the family's legal team, "There has definitely been a cover-up. The strangest thing is that not one officer can remember who shot first." Busch's killing, she adds, is "part of a long-standing pattern."

Barry Scheck points out that "the police should have been informed of the CCRB recommendation" regarding the use of pepper spray on emotionally disturbed suspects. "The department needs to set up appropriate procedures in handling mentally disturbed people," he adds.

Writing a series of passionate articles in the Jewish Press, Rabbi Kunda pleaded with readers to "flood" City Hall with "strong letters, Emails, and faxes expressing indignation and anger at what happened"—although Kunda ackowledges readers' fears that "if we don't vote for the mayor in the Senate, we'll be stuck with Hillary Clinton—a much worse alternative." Other Busch sympathizers take note of Boro Park's conflicting loyalties.

Cynthia Greenberg, associate director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, which has been involved in protests in the Louima and Diallo cases, held an event last week at the Upper West Side liberal Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, seeking broader support for the Busch case.

"We called the Busch family right after the shooting," she declares. "As Jews, we wanted them to know we are here for them."

Gary Busch, described as a "gentle soul" by his teachers, friends, and relatives, became Orthodox in Israel after leaving medical school in the middle of his third year, in 1993. In Israel, he began to suffer from manic depression. During his worst episodes, his mother says, he wouldn't eat or talk to people for days. At his most manic extreme, during his final eight months in Boro Park, he would outrage neighbors by dancing expressively to his own highly amplified Hasidic music in the street.

As Gary's fiancée, Netanya Ullman, also a wide-eyed Ba'altshuva, walks with a Voice reporter toward the staircase descending to his former basement home, she gestures energetically to the sidewalk where, she recalls, he "danced the most beautiful dances" she ever saw.

"He carved the Hebrew name of God into his hammer, which he called his staff," she explains. "Everything had spiritual significance to Gary. He was incredible." (In fact, at his mother's home in Long Island, even his alarm clock has the Hebrew name of God scratched on the sides.)

"There's no doubt Gary was a little nutty," says the older next-door neighbor, "but I never considered him dangerous. The kids always played with him, and my own grandchildren did on the day he was killed." Some of the parents in the community were away for the summer, and when they returned they were taken aback by his "strange" ways, he said. "But it's a shame they didn't understand him."

In her grief, Doris Busch Boskey has become something of an activist, first joining protesters in early January outside the Brooklyn courthouse when jury selection began in the case of the officers allegedly involved with Justin Volpe in the Louima attack, then journeying to Albany for the Diallo trial. She obsessively collects articles and looks for new leads in her son's case. She has compared experiences with mothers of other police-killing victims—perhaps most extensively with Iris Baez of the Bronx, mother of Anthony Baez, who died in 1994 in a notorious "choking death" case. Officer Francis Livoti was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide in 1996, but was convicted in 1998 of civil rights violations.

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