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NYPD officers turn out to support their own in Diallo case

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March 30, 1999
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Marching to chants of "It's A Tragedy, Not A Crime," hundreds of off-duty police officers rallied Tuesday in support of four fellow officers charged in the fatal shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo.

The pro-police demonstration was the first of its kind since a Bronx grand jury indicted the four officers for second-degree murder in the February 4 shooting of Diallo, who was hit by 19 of 41 bullets fired at him in the vestibule of his apartment building.

The supporters rallied outside the Bronx courthouse where the four officers -- Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy -- are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

"These officers have been described as murderers, as Klansmen, as executioners, and people have been demanding their arrest from day one. And we believe it was nothing more than a tragic, tragic mistake," said James Savage, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the police union.

"They're anxious to speak. They want people to know exactly what happened in that doorway that night and why they fired those shots," Savage said.

The accused officers chose not to testify before the grand jury. Their attorneys have said officers are allowed to fire their weapons if they believe their lives are in danger, suggesting a possible defense when the case goes to trial.

The officers, who remain on desk duty, were members of the NYPD's elite street crimes unit. They were on undercover patrol looking for a serial rapist in the Bronx neighborhood where Diallo lived. One defense attorney has said the officers thought Diallo resembled a sketch of the alleged rapist.

"Any officer in the same situation would probably act in the same way," one of the demonstrating officers said.

"This happened to be a mistake, not a crime, and it's being prosecuted unfairly by the public," said another.

Saikou Diallo, the victim's father, arrived in New York on Tuesday to attend the arraignment. He was greeted at John F. Kennedy Airport by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who told reporters he and others would "fight to the end."

"We have an arraignment," Sharpton said, "not a conviction."

Diallo thanked Sharpton and others for their support. Kyle Watters, an attorney for the Diallo family, said he felt sure there can be a "fair legal process."

Diallo's mother, Kadiadou, is expected to arrive later this evening or tomorrow morning.

Fifteen days of anti-police demonstrations outside the NYPD headquarters in Manhattan came to an end on Monday following news of the arraignments. A total of 1,175 people had been arrested for disorderly conduct for blocking the building's entrance.

Starting April 7, the first of those cases are scheduled to be heard in summons court. Attorneys representing the arrestees met with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau to discuss the possible dismissal of all the cases.

"We laid out a position we think is in the best interest of New York," said defense attorney Michael Hardy. The violations are punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Demonstrators both for and against the accused officers pledge to be in front of the Bronx courthouse Wednesday.

Sources: Four NYPD officers indicted in Diallo shooting
March 25, 1999
More than 200 arrested in protest of New York City police shooting
March 24, 1999
Civil rights leader arrested in police brutality protest
March 18, 1999
Congressman arrested at New York police brutality protest
March 15, 1999

NAACP President's Corner: NAACP to join NY protest of Diallo police killing
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Human Rights Watch - Shielded from Justice: New York
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