Richard Neri, the Brooklyn cop who shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury on the roof of a Bed-Stuy apartment building last winter, has been elected to police union office. In his paid position as a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegate in Brooklyn North, Neri will be the new go-to guy for officers in his precinct.
Among other duties for the powerful PBA, Neri will be first on the scene in the event a cop, for example, shoots someone and thinks he might need advice. Just one year ago, Neri was on the receiving end of such PBA help.
On January 24, 2004, Stansbury was trying to take a short cut across a roof to get more CDs for a friend’s birthday party. He got as far as a door that opens out to the roof when, in the stairwell, he was shot once in the chest by Neri. The African American teen, a McDonald’s employee who was working on his high-school diploma, was unarmed and had never been in trouble with police. Neri later said he pulled the trigger unintentionally.
The racially charged case pitted family members and activists against the NYPD. There were marches, vigils, and speeches. Unexpectedly, the Bloomberg administration positioned itself squarely in the Stansbury family’s corner—in direct opposition to the PBA. Mayor Bloomberg visited the boy’s grandmother at her home in the Louis Armstrong Projects in Bed-Stuy and spoke at Stansbury’s huge funeral.
Bloomberg’s police commissioner, Ray Kelly, enraged the PBA by announcing that the shooting appeared unjustified. PBA chief Patrick Lynch fired back by holding a press conference in the lobby of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to denounce what he called Kelly’s rush to judgment. Lynch then presided over a special election in which the PBA gave Kelly a vote of no confidence, in effect calling for the commissioner’s resignation.
Brooklyn prosecutors sought charges of criminally negligent homicide and second-degree manslaughter against Neri. But a mostly black and Latino grand jury declined to indict. Insiders weren’t surprised, saying juries are typically loath to criminalize police for even the deadliest incidents—[see this recent list of NYPD shootings.
The Stansbury case has continued to simmer, sparking protests by Bed-Stuy residents. Meanwhile, Neri has remained benched, sans gun and badge, pending an internal review of the shooting. He’s still on non-enforcement “modified duty” until the NYPD’s Firearms Review Board figures out whether to discipline him.
How could a cop still under investigation for a deadly shooting—one who can’t even carry a badge—be elected to union office? PBA spokesman Al O’Leary tells the Voice: “[Neri’s] not fighting crime, he’s fighting management. He’s a veteran—well known, well liked. He’s obviously the sort of caring, involved person the job requires.”
City Councilman Charles Barron points out the symbolism of Neri’s union post, saying, “The Police Brutality Association—that’s what I call them. That decision was absurd and unconscionable. They have in effect rewarded him for killing an innocent youth.”