For the past 16 months, Lloyd and Evadine Bailey, Jamaican immigrants mending broken dreams, have been living the ultimate American nightmare. Police Officer Kenneth Boss, one of four white cops accused in the cold-blooded killing of unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo, shot and killed their only son, Patrick, on Halloween night 1997 in Brooklyn.
This week, their quiet campaign for justice could get a resounding boost or be dealt a lethal blow.
The Voice has learned that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes— once the darling of the African American civil rights community for his prosecution of a racist white gang in Howard Beach, but now reviled in some quarters for allegedly protecting cops involved in racially motivated assaults and slayings— will release his long-awaited report on the circumstances surrounding the Bailey shooting.
Hynes’s decision to disclose his findings was due partly to persistent Voice inquiries about criticism that he was dragging his feet on the investigation and rumors that he was leaning toward clearing Boss of any criminal wrongdoing.
The investigation had been deadlocked over a dispute with the Bailey family concerning prosecutors’ alleged refusal to interview some witnesses to the shooting of the 22-year-old aspiring stockbroker, who doubled as a super at his mother’s two-story brick house at 731 Sheffield Avenue in East New York.
Last week, in an apparent about-face, Hynes, speaking through his top aide, Dennis Hawkins, told the Voice that “recent publicity has generated some interest” in the Bailey case. “There are now potential extra witnesses, who we are in the process of interviewing,” Hawkins said.
One of those witnesses, sources say, is a black youth who identified himself as “Chucky McDaniels.” In 1997, he told Christopher
O’Donoghue, a reporter for Channel 9, that Boss and three other unidentified members of the NYPD’s marauding Anti-Crime Unit did not identify themselves before opening fire on Bailey. “They didn’t say, ‘Freeze!’ or nothin’,” said McDaniels of the elite team, which is condemned in black neighborhoods as a “snuff squad” empowered by Mayor Rudy Giuliani to take back the night. “They just kicked the door in an’ started shootin’.”
Based on Hynes’s dismal record of prosecuting allegedly brutal cops, attorney Casilda Roper-Simpson and community activist Charles Barron, advisers to the Bailey family, are wary. (Since Hynes took office in 1990 there have been 76 fatal police shootings in Brooklyn, but only 23 cases were presented to grand juries.) Roper-Simpson and Barron view Hynes’s eleventh-hour maneuver as a public-relations gimmick. The D.A., they assert, is a selective prosecutor, and they predict he will let Boss walk.
“He’s pathetic!” scoffs Barron, a former Black Panther Party member. “We’ve brought him all kinds of evidence in the past. We’ve brought bullet-riddled bodies, eyewitnesses. He does not indict police officers!”
Hawkins shrugged off charges that Hynes botched the investigation into Bailey’s death, allowing a racist killer cop to remain on the force and allegedly kill again. Boss and three other cops unloaded 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo, hitting him 19 times, in the vestibule of Diallo’s Bronx apartment building on February 4. A witness said all four undercover cops fired after one of them shouted, “He’s got a gun!” No gun was found.
“The blood of Patrick Bailey and Amadou Diallo is on the hands of Charles Hynes,” Barron declares.
Shortly before telling the Voice that he would extend his investigation, Hynes’s spokesman maintained that the Bailey family’s contention that the shooting was unjustified does not match the evidence. “There are police and civilian witnesses who place [a] shotgun in Patrick Bailey’s hands before he was shot,” said Hawkins.
Although an unloaded and inoperable shotgun allegedly was recovered at the scene, witnesses interviewed by the family insist that Bailey was unarmed. Police say that Bailey— a Wall Street clerk and amateur DJ, who was known in his neighborhood as “Teacher,” was wielding a sawed-off shotgun when Boss and his partners chased him into his home. They said that upon entering, the officers encountered Bailey sitting on the steps pointing the gun at them.
According to handwritten notes of an autopsy conducted by the city medical examiner, Bailey “is said to have . . . fired on police who returned fire.” Boss reportedly squeezed off two rounds from his 9mm Glock. One bullet struck Bailey in the right thigh, the other pierced his right hip and right buttock and passed through his penis, severing a main artery. Bailey died at Brookdale Hospital. As the investigation unfolded, police, after first conceding that the shotgun was empty and could not be fired, then claimed that the officers had opened fire because they believed that Bailey was holding a woman hostage.
In October 1998, Patrick Bailey’s parents filed a $155 million civil rights complaint in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, claiming that the cops responsible for their son’s death were enforcing “a policy and custom of overly aggressive policing created and established by” Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
The accusations appeared to rattle the tough-talking Giuliani administration, which tried to portray Patrick Bailey as a petty criminal and gang member whose actions caused his own death, according to documents related to a separate wrongful death claim filed with the city corporation counsel shortly after the shooting.
Last April, assistant corporation counsel Grant Cornehls met with the parents to evaluate their claim of emotional distress. A routine hearing, intended as a forum to elicit evidence about the impact of the tragedy on the victim’s family, degenerated into a barrage of hostile questioning that left Mrs. Bailey, 52, sobbing and pleading, “[W]hat does that have to do with my son’s death?”
The city, it seemed, had put Patrick Bailey and his parents on trial.
The Baileys were interrogated separately in the presence of attorney Casilda Roper-Simpson, who repeatedly challenged Cornehls about the legality of his tactics. Despite her objections, Cornehls pried into Patrick Bailey’s background.
“Was Patrick ever arrested?” the city lawyer demanded of the victim’s father, a 52-year-old health-care worker.
“I heard that he had some former incident with some guy that was living in the apartment,” replied Mr. Bailey, who seemed thrown off by the question but struggled to muster an explanation. “What happened is the guy was moving out without paying the rent and [Patrick held] onto a television, but I think that case was thrown out. . . .”
When Cornehls asked for the former tenant’s name, Roper-Simpson objected, reminding her adversary that the purpose of the hearing was to allow the city to gather information about the shooting, not the victim’s past.
But Cornehls persisted.
“Do you know whether Patrick was arrested for robbery in 1992?”
“He’s not answering that!” Roper-Simpson intervened.
“Do you know whether he was arrested for robbery in 1996?”
“He’s not answering that question either!”
“Do you know whether Patrick belonged to a gang?”
“He’s not answering that question either!”
“Do you know whether Patrick owned any weapons?” Cornehls shot back.
Roper-Simpson became enraged. “Now, I’m not sure why you’re asking him these questions,” she snapped.
After an off-the-record exchange Cornehls continued grilling the father. “Did Patrick own a Remington shotgun?”
“Don’t answer,” Roper-Simpson advised.
There may have been hundreds of gang members with Remington shotguns in the city on Halloween night 1997. A special squad of cops was patrolling black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and police had stepped up surveillance in the subway stations because of rumors that members of the Bloods gang planned violence to create a citywide scare.
Among the plainclothes anti-crime officers who fanned out in “Operation Red Bandana” that night under a directive from the mayor were, according to witnesses to the Bailey shooting, Kenneth Boss and two other cops, including a sergeant.
Witnesses interviewed by Casilda Roper-Simpson and Charles Barron said that about 11:25 p.m., an alleged drug dealer, who had been warned earlier that day by Patrick Bailey not to sell drugs in front of his mother’s house, stopped an unmarked police car. He reportedly told the officers— later identified as Boss and his partners— that Bailey had menaced him with a shotgun. Roper-Simpson and Barron claim that when the drug dealer spotted Bailey and two friends, Deborah Chuck and Horace Campbell, as they walked to a grocery, he accosted them as the cops looked on.
“The witnesses, who were with Patrick at the time, said that the drug dealer had his hand in his waistband like he had a gun,” Barron recalls. “It’s strange for someone who is being accompanied by the police to act like that.”
“One of the many theories we have is that the drug dealer was used as an informant by police,” adds Roper-Simpson. “It was a setup,” she charges. The drug dealer, according to the Bailey family advisers, “cornered” Campbell. Bailey and Chuck, Campbell’s girlfriend, bolted and ran back to 731 Sheffield Avenue.
“The police, who were with the drug dealer, gave chase,” says Barron. Witnesses told the
activist that the pursuing cops kicked open the front door and an inner door and barged in. “They had to come in right behind him because Patrick was running down the stairs to the basement,” Barron theorizes.
That’s when shots rang out and Patrick stumbled down the stairs. “Kenneth Boss fired,” Barron claims. “His two bullets hit Patrick.” A bullet grazed Deborah Chuck. “She had to be in front of Patrick because she got hit in the back of her knee,” Barron argues. Chuck told the advisers that as Bailey lay gasping for breath, bleeding profusely, one officer ground his knee in Bailey’s chest and handcuffed him. “I’m going to kill you, motherfucker!” Chuck remembered the officer shouting.
Barron says that Chuck and at least two other witnesses feared they were being attacked by a gang. “She didn’t know they were police because of the way the drug dealer had led the chase.”
In their multi-million-dollar federal complaint, the Bailey family alleges that “negligent, careless [and] reckless” cops left Patrick to die. Roper-Simpson claims that an independent autopsy performed by Dr. Barbara Wolf determined that Bailey’s “wounds were survivable.” She says Wolf concluded that Bailey “bled to death.”
Barron says that prosecutors in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office told him that Bailey was shot at 11:37 p.m., and that police called for paramedics two minutes later. EMS allegedly failed to respond, and the cops placed another call at 11:46 p.m. The medical examiner’s autopsy notes state that paramedics brought Bailey to Brookdale Hospital at 12:17 a.m. on November 1. “What were the cops doing with Patrick Bailey after 11:39 p.m.?” Barron asks. “He gets to the hospital at 12:17— that’s 40 minutes.”
Barron says that after the shooting, several top cops hypothesized that officers at the scene felt it was too dangerous for the paramedics to enter the house because other “suspects” may have been hiding inside. That explanation may account for assistant corporation counsel Cornehls’s otherwise bizarre insinuations that Patrick Bailey’s behavior that night was in some way gang-related, or perhaps the result of a lover’s quarrel that culminated in Bailey assaulting Deborah Chuck.
Consider Cornehls’s line of questioning of Lloyd Bailey at the April 1998 hearing:
“Do you know whether [Deborah Chuck] was dating Patrick?”
“I don’t know,” the bemused father replied. “I don’t think so, because Deborah Chuck [has] a boyfriend that was, I think, Patrick’s friend.”
“Do you know whether Patrick and Deborah ever argued or fought?”
“No,” Mr. Bailey said.
“Do you know whether Patrick had ever hit Deborah Chuck?”
Roper-Simpson interrupted, demanding, “What does that have to do with what happened on the night of this incident?”
“On the night of October 31, 1997,” Cornehls explained, “apparently Patrick was involved in an altercation with a woman who we believe may be Deborah Chuck. I think what their prior relationship was is relevant to that.”
In the ensuing months, Charles Barron reluctantly reached out to Brooklyn D.A. Hynes. Barron had been critical of Hynes’s handling of a number of controversial shootings of African Americans, including Aswon Watson, who was shot 18 times by two white anti-crime officers in Brooklyn in 1996 after the officers claimed he was reaching for a gun. It turned out to be a Club, the anti-theft car-locking device. Hynes backed the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers, angering many in the African American community.
On February 5, the day after Amadou Diallo allegedly was gunned down by Kenneth Boss and his anti-crime-crusading buddies in the Bronx, Brooklyn assistant D.A. Adam S. Charnoff, who was in charge of the Bailey investigation, contacted Casilda Roper-Simpson. He told her that Boss was the same cop who had shot Bailey.
“The office is on my back to close this case out,” Roper-Simpson recalls Charnoff saying. “I need all the witnesses you have.” Buoyed by the D.A.’s apparently renewed interest, Roper-Simpson rounded up some of the witnesses. But her exuberance was short-lived.
Three days later, as condemnation of the Diallo shooting rained down on the NYPD and Giuliani, Charnoff told Roper-Simpson that the witnesses she had provided had already been interviewed by his office, and that unless she came up with new ones, Hynes would terminate his investigation. As Roper-Simpson put it, “I used a few expletives. I was upset. I told him, ‘This is not fair. Mr. Hynes is playing with the family’s emotions.’ ” Then, in a follow-up letter to Roper-Simpson, Charnoff blamed the Bailey family for the confusion, claiming that they had promised to provide additional witnesses who would “contradict the police officers’ recollection of the events leading up to the shooting.”
Roper-Simpson denies that the Bailey family made such a promise, adding that it was “Hynes’s excuse for sitting on the case for the past 16 months.” On February 18, Charnoff met with the Bailey family and their advisers, but Roper-Simpson and Barron also perceived that meeting as an attempt by Hynes at damage control. Barry Schreiber, chief of Hynes’s homicide bureau, angered the Bailey group when he allegedly declared that Hynes— and Hynes alone— would decide whether the evidence in the Bailey shooting was strong enough to be presented to a grand jury.
Evadine Bailey cried throughout her harsh interrogation by Grant Cornehls, a tightfisted guardian of the city’s coffers. The tears were for her Patrick, not a gangsta named “Popa,” a thief, or the woman-beater Cornehls made him out to be. Her Patrick mowed the lawn, helped his mother with her vegetable garden, took the garbage out, mopped the hallways, cleaned the yard, and contributed $400 each month toward the mortgage. “He cooked,” she told Cornehls. “Anything I asked him to do he would just say, ‘Yes mommy.’ ”
The last time Mrs. Bailey spoke to her son was two days before he died. Patrick, she recalled, had planned to spend Halloween night with his cousins working on his DJ equipment. Shortly after midnight— after the ghouls in blue had snuffed out Patrick’s life— Mrs. Bailey’s eldest daughter, Angela, roused her. “Mommy!” she bawled, “Patrick is shot!”
In his final affront to the grieving mother, Cornehls— implying that Bailey may not have suffered before he died— asked, “Do you know how long Patrick was alive after he was shot?”
“I don’t know,” she sobbed. “I wish I knew.”
Research: Karen Mahabir
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 2, 1999