Another 'Justified' Homicide?

A Police Shooting Reveals Scared Tenants and Scary Cops

"They didn't look at him as a human being," Abellard Louis-Jeune shouted through an amped-up microphone, speaking about her brother, 23-year-old police shooting victim Georgy Louisgene. (Abellard uses the pre-migration spelling of the family name.) On a hot summer morning outside the Jay Street office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes on the six-month anniversary of her brother's death, she called to black cops in uniform, "When you take it off, they'll kill YOU." Hemmed in by police barricades, other members of the family, all wearing black T-shirts bearing the picture of a smiling dreadlocked young man, and the name "Georgy Louisgene Justice Committee." Plastered on signs at the protest were the faces of many other smiling young men: black, Asian, Latin, and their ages—16,21,23—when they too were killed by police officers.

The protesters angrily addressed Hynes, challenging him time and again to offer them a convincing explanation for Louisgene's death, or a trial of the officers involved. On closing the investigation one month ago, Hynes provided neither.

In the next week, the Louisgene family is filing a multimillion-dollar law suit against the city over the loss of Georgy's life, according to family attorney, Duane Felton. Abellard, who is 26, leads the family's cause and serves as plaintiff in documents obtained by the Voice. She charges that officers committed an "unlawful shooting without probable cause," and conspired to violate Georgy's civil rights "under the color of law."

A protest outside the office of Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes on July 15, including Louisgene's uncle Etang Vielot and mother, Marie Louisgene (together at left) and brother Junior (with arm raised)
photo: Cary Conover
A protest outside the office of Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes on July 15, including Louisgene's uncle Etang Vielot and mother, Marie Louisgene (together at left) and brother Junior (with arm raised)

Steve Yip, of the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, counted at least 46 police killings that occurred within Hynes's jurisdiction in the 1990s that went untried. Additionally, he says, of the four in the past year that he is personally aware of, only one received a jury trial—the incident involving drunken off-duty police officer Joseph Gray running down the four-member Herrara-Pena family.

Hynes's investigation, lasting more than five months, into the January 16 shooting of Louisgene, a Flatbush resident, came to a close on June 28 when his office announced, "There is no credible basis upon which the involved officers could be found to be criminally liable . . . " Louisgene, who had no police record, history of violence, or mental illness, was Haitian, and only two days away from his naturalization exams. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated even before the body was identified that the killing was justified, and apparently months of further investigation dug up nothing more. But there is a lot that might have been found.

On January 16 Louisgene lay dead on the cement walkway of 3501 Foster Avenue in East Flatbush. While blood puddled in the cracks of the sidewalk, leaking from the five bullet wounds that killed him, the two officers who had fired—Joe Thompson, 25, an officer for four years, and Sergeant James Muirhead, 30, a seven-year veteran—waited for backup from the 67th Precinct. It arrived in droves. A fleet of police cruisers lined the street with officers, witnesses, and reporters swarming the Vanderveer Estates projects. Over 35 minutes later an ambulance arrived, covered the body, and left. The time of death was 2:39 p.m, but it was early evening before the body was removed.

In the days following the shooting, newspaper stories tried to account for why Louisgene was shot, though his body had yet to be identified. He was cast as a deranged man, who had been acting crazily, wandering the projects with a knife and a stick, an hour and a half after taking flight mid-shift from his stockboy job at a CVS on Kings Highway, over a mile away. He turned up at Vanderveer and, according to the newspapers, assaulted people: He was allegedly "groping" and had "fondled" people, "menaced" a young girl, and tried to kiss several men, women, and children. Sometime during these scattered events, he was also evidently battered by a gang of young men. The papers reported no firsthand accounts of people he had assaulted, only unnamed "witnesses" and police sources.

The Daily News reported that two of the men Louisgene tried to kiss chased him down and beat him. He then burst into a woman's apartment, where he "menaced her 10-year-old daughter," said the Daily News, and then tore off, swiping a kitchen knife and wooden stick with a small hook on the top of it. When he ran out to the courtyard, police were waiting for him, reportedly in response to a 911 call. Stories said Louisgene then headed toward the cops brandishing the weapons, and they fired eight times, five of which hit him. Louisgene was shot in the torso, lower back, buttocks, left arm, and left side. And today this sketchy story still has gaping holes. Prior to leaving his job on January 16, apparently in a panic, he told his co-workers to call 911, fearing that he was in some danger. It is unclear why he was later at Vanderveer—none of his close friends or family of seven, who live in a house several miles away to which he still returned every night, know of any connections there. The woman into whose apartment Louisgene allegedly "burst" or "forced himself" (as the dailies wrote) says that she actually let him in.

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