Another 'Justified' Homicide?

A Police Shooting Reveals Scared Tenants and Scary Cops

"The cops were telling us to be quiet and said that we were 'obstructing the justice,' " said Alexander, who is 26. He was standing with his nephew and several other neighbors, and was later interviewed by the Daily News along with a Robert Rivera, who has since become unreachable. He said that about 10 witnesses were immediately brought down to the 67th Precinct and questioned.

The day after the shooting, Sam Rodriguez and McQuillar went down to the station on their own to tell police what they had seen. "They didn't want to hear it. They didn't even want to write down what we had to say." Now the Rodriguezes have moved and want no connection to the case.

"The shooting was good. The shooting was justified. Muirhead did nothing wrong," said an officer, unguarded, except for withholding his name, in an interview at the 67th Precinct stationhouse. Twenty-nine hours after the shooting, at 7:30 p.m. on January 17, the family was brought to the stationhouse, and the body was finally officially identified.

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)

"We don't know you, but we really regret what happened," read a letter Abellard found on her first visit to the shooting site. The entire family went there after several hours at the precinct, during which no one ever explained exactly what "the Vanderveer" was—they had no clue. Finally at around 9:30 p.m., they were given the address and drove out to see where Georgy had spent his last moments. That crude epitaph, along with arranged, lighted candles, flowers, and notes, had been left at the spot where his blood still stained the ground—about 12 feet from the always ajar entrance gate where the officers had stood when they fired. She remembered people approaching them that evening. "Everybody was just coming out; they wanted to tell us about it," she says. She wasn't ready to hear it.

The evening of Wednesday, January 22, one week following the shooting, the family and a few friends staged a candlelight vigil at Vanderveer. They went seeking answers that never surfaced.

"Nobody would come out. People would walk by, even just run, like they were afraid of us. And when we went into the buildings and put flyers under the doors, some of them would push it right out—right there and then—like they didn't want to be involved," said Abellard.

Now the Louisgene family, who share a Nostrand Avenue apartment, are moving out of Brooklyn. "I need to be somewhere I don't see him every day on the street," explained Abellard, who said she still expects to bump into him. The man they remember was a man who sang out loud, with his Walkman on the train and at work. "And he was a LOUD singer," laughed Abellard. The radio was always on. Reggae and hip-hop were his passions. He performed in clubs, opening up for big-name artists like Sizzla and Capleton, often rhyming about police brutality and fundamental human rights.

Suzette Palmer, a close friend, said his dreadlocks and vegetarianism were spurred by his interest in the Rastafarian lifestyle. She described him as the "most humble of all of us," though always dressed in a tailored shirt and slacks. She recalled that one week before the shooting, someone suggested he start carrying a weapon. Palmer says Georgy's response was "No, I don't carry weapons. It's not me." She says it is inconceivable that he would act deranged or grope children.

"He would have done it before," she said, implying that she'd have known. He babysat and was a "father figure" to her children, ages two, five, and eight. They adored him, she said. "He'd take my little son out to play basketball, help them do their homework, press their school uniforms, and pick them up from school."

"He tried to live peacefully and quietly and righteous. God, he was always talking about righteousness and how to live righteously," said Abellard with exasperation, while her sister, Cindy, and younger brother Junior chuckled quietly.

Abellard formed the family committee because, aside from the Coalition for Haitian Justice, there are only a handful of community activist groups they could go to for help. The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), which is the largest of these, held a town meeting with the police commissioner's office—catalyzed by the Louisgene incident—on police relations with Haitians. The family attended and viewed it as a session chastising Haitians for hating the police, and trying to "sensitize" them toward understanding police actions.

"We asked Commissioner Kelly why they waited for something like this to happen, again after Dorismond, again after Louima, to come in our community and tell us we need to trust the police," said Abellard, "and, [we asked] 'What are you doing about the Georgy Louisgene case?' "

"He just left," she said. "He said he didn't have time for this and left."

To date, with Abner Louima's search for justice continuing in the courts, and Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes's history of not indicting cops involved in misconduct, especially against Haitians, the outlook for Abellard and her family is an uphill battle to say the least. But Suzette Palmer hopes for the best:

"They just want justice. All they want is justice. This is America. You gotta have justice for all."

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