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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Smith disputes this account, saying that when he approached the van he took his empty hand from his pants pocket, and the officer shot at him


23:05 |

Smith, an alleged gang member with a record of drug arrests, glanced down the street at a marked police car handling the earlier shooting, according to police. Then he is alleged to have sworn at the officers, pulled a gun from underneath his jersey and placed it against Collier's head. Chatman said he immediately reached across his partner's chest and fired two shots at Smith.Smith disputes this account, saying that when he approached the van he took his empty hand from his pants pocket, and the officer shot at him. Chatman and Collier did not respond to requests for comments.After Chatman fired, Smith crumpled to the ground, then sprang up and ran.
The officers jumped from the van and chased Smith down the street. While running, Smith is alleged to have turned and fired a shot at the officers. Collier returned fire, but Smith kept running.Meanwhile, seven girls and young women were returning from a corner store. When they heard the shooting and saw Smith and the two undercover officers running toward them, they screamed and ran into a two-flat on the block, according to their statements to police.But the door inside the vestibule leading to one girl's basement apartment was locked. As they banged on the door, Smith ran up and pushed on the front door of the two-flat, which would not open, perhaps because the 4-by-7-foot vestibule was so crowded.Chatman and Collier would later say they never saw the girls. They said they watched as Smith repeatedly rammed his right shoulder into the front door while turning and pointing the pistol with his right hand at Collier.Collier, a former award-winning Army sharpshooter, fired twice at Smith. The door of the vestibule flew open, and police said Smith fell inside. Chatman heard female voices inside the building screaming, with one crying, "Don't hurt me!"A few seconds later, Collier cautiously approached the vestibule and peered down the steps leading to the basement apartment. He saw Smith lying at the bottom of the stairs and saw and heard the girls screaming.
Instead of handcuffing Smith, securing his gun and radioing for help, both officers, according to their statements to supervisors, left the scene. Collier ran down the street to seek backup, while Chatman sprinted back to the unmarked van and drove toward the rear of the two-flat. He later told supervisors he did so in case Smith tried escaping from a back door.Moments later, responding officers entered the front door and saw Smith at the bottom of the stairs, bleeding from bullet wounds in the chest, arm and leg. Inside the basement apartment were the seven young girls and women, including Chantel Davidson, 13, who was hit in the shoulder by a police bullet.When police did not find a gun on Smith, they searched the apartment. Warfield, who lived there, later testified that police cut open couches, tipped over the refrigerator and broke two TVs. Still, they found no gun.For the next several hours, officers scoured the street. At one point, more than 100 officers were on the block. A firetruck with powerful lights was brought out to illuminate the area, and a gun-sniffing police dog was summoned. But no weapon was found.The girls and young women later said in court filings that they were locked in interrogation rooms at the police station overnight, deprived of using the bathroom and threatened with arrest. One was so upset she called a TV station for help. The girls continued to say Smith did not have a gun.Finally, at 6:30 the next morning, police said they found an unregistered gun under a bush 40 yards down the street from the two-flat. Police officials immediately gathered to hold a "round table" meeting to determine if the shooting was justified.The panel, consisting of police and other law enforcement officials, heard several officers give statements. But only one girl was brought in to testify: a 15-year-old who, according to police, said she had seen Smith show her cousin a gun the afternoon of the shooting.After about an hour, the round table provided the Police Department's initial finding in the case, clearing the two officers of wrongdoing — without interviewing all the witnesses, examining fingerprints or analyzing ballistics evidence.
Not until the girls filed a lawsuit was the Police Department compelled to answer pointed questions about the shooting and produce crucial documents. Those records, along with depositions and trial transcripts, reveal that the police's initial version of events does not square with what officers later testified to in court.
For instance, when the round table cleared the officers, police Assistant Deputy Superintendent Patrick McNulty addressed the initial failure to find a gun by writing that Officers Chatman and Collier briefly left the scene and the building unguarded.


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