The New York Daily News by John Marzulli - January 12, 2011
Two cops facing discipline in the fatal shooting of a crazed man swinging a metal chair should have hid behind the bushes for protection instead of firing, an NYPD lawyer says. Officers Dawn Ortiz and India Archie were cleared of wrongdoing in 2008 by a police firearms review board soon after the shooting. The NYPD's Holy Name Society, a police fraternal group, honored them for their "valor above and beyond the call of duty" at a ceremony attended by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Although the firearms panel recommended some retraining, some higherups wanted to slap the pair with a "command discipline" - which carries the loss of several days of pay. The cops refused the discipline, saying they did nothing wrong, triggering more serious charges and a departmental trial.
Rita Bieniewicz, a prosecutor in the legal bureau, laid out the tougher disciplinary case against the cops in detail last week in an internal document. Ortiz told investigators she had backed up as far as she could due to a row of shrubs behind her in a Coney Island parking lot on Nov. 13, 2008, when she fired one shot at rampaging Gilbert Blanco, 45. Bieniewicz contended the cop had better options. "The bushes that lined the boundary line of the parking lot where both [cops] were standing allowed for clear passage," Bieniewicz wrote. "They did not comprise a dense, impenetrable hedgerow, but are two to three separate, relatively small bushes." The NYPD lawyer argued that the cops' failure to use pepper spray and retreat further back - or laterally - put them closer than they should have been. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch denounced the second-guessing. "It is easy when you have the luxury of unlimited time in complete safety to ponder an officer's actions over a cup of coffee," he said. "The officer had every right to protect herself in the face of deadly physical force," Lynch said. "We believe the department made a serious mistake in bringing charges in this case." Archie's lawyer, Eric Sanders, said the public does not want cops to run from threats like cowards. "There's no obligation to retreat, and if that's what the department wants, there will be anarchy in the street," he said. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne defended the handling of the case. "The [firearms discharge] review process is an important one and what you see at work here. It is the right of police officers to ask for a trial on the issues." firstname.lastname@example.org