A day after thousands marched in Union Square for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old who was shot in Florida, the family members of the late John Collado gathered in a small law office yesterday afternoon to call for a federal investigation into the Inwood father of five’s shooting death at the hands of a plainclothes cop.
Collado was shot last September by a detective with the NYPD, who was carrying out a drug bust. The family members and their lawyer claim that the officer’s shooting of Collado, who was not a target in the sting operation, was unwarranted and that the officer didn’t reveal that he was with the NYPD and should have had backup with him. Officials claim that Collado had the detective in a chokehold as the officer was attempting to arrest Collado’s neighbor.
On Friday last week, a grand jury ruled not to indict the cop, sparking the outrage of the grieving family members who are now calling for a federal investigation into the case.
The family and lawyer met with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office yesterday afternoon to discuss the grand jury’s decision. They told reporters at a press conference after the meeting that they were unsatisfied with the DA office’s explanation and that they were going to seek justice through a federal probe.
“We are sad and hurt,” said Amarilis, Collado’s wife, speaking in Spanish while Collado’s niece translated. “We are under the assumption that laws are based on reason, not for convenience…What has been done has been an injustice. The family is waiting for them [the NYPD] to recognize that they committed an error. That officer should have never discharged his weapon…When somebody commits a wrongdoing, there has to be consequences for their actions.”
One by one, family members, several in tears, told reporters that they were distraught that Collado was gone from them, but the police officer who shot him is free and continuing to work for the NYPD.
“It’s just shocking to me how our justice system has failed me and my dad and my brothers and sisters,” said John Collado Jr., the 22-year-old son of the late Collado.
In perhaps the most emotional part of the news conference, Collado’s niece, Banayz Taveras — who was allegedly arrested and held for more than a day when she tried to help her bleeding uncle after the confrontation — said, through tears, that she was shocked at the grand jury’s decision. “They left him [her uncle] in the streets. They kicked him to see if he was still alive. They refused every effort to let his family see him. How a grand jury receiving this information can say nothing was wrong is beyond me.”
Patrick Brackley, the lawyer for the family told the Voice that they met with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal for around 45 minutes yesterday afternoon. He told reporters that the DA’s office didn’t have much to say.
“The DA in the most briefest terms indicated that, by their opinion, all of the evidence was presented and the grand jury did not indict. We were not given any specifics due to certain rules that exist regarding the sanctity of the grand jury,” he said, adding that the grand jury ultimately found that the officer was justified in the shooting.
Yesterday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney comment declined to comment. It’s the practice of the DA’s office to present any fatal police shooting to the grand jury. The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment late yesterday afternoon from the Voice.
In addition to calling for a federal probe, the family and the attorney have filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights for a lawsuit against the city, Brackley told the Voice.
The family was flanked by City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams, who have been outspoken critics of the NYPD, with regards to police-community relations and the police’s handling of Occupy Wall Street.
Rodriguez, who represents the neighborhood where Collado was shot and who marched on Wednesday for Trayvon Martin, said that this has to be a wake-up call that reform is needed at the NYPD. “Today, we are here to say…enough is enough,” said Rodriguez, who said he was very skeptical of the grand jury’s decision. “We are tired. We are fed up and we demand justice for Mr. Collado,” he added.
Williams, who has been especially outspoken about the city’s stop-and-frisk policies, tied the death of Collado to larger racial disparities of the NYPD’s handling of crime. “Whenever you hear these instances, you pretty much can be assured that it’s a black or Latino, usually male…You can guess the pigmentation of their skin.”