New Rochelle Shooting by Cop Justified, Grand Jury Says

11 Dec, 2013

By Polly Kreisman

Samuel Cruz, shot by police

Samuel Cruz, shot by police

A Grand Jury has ruled that the New Rochelle Police Officer that shot and killed Samuel Cruz last May, will not be indicted and that force was used justifiably. Cruz was reportedly suffering from mental illness.

Most Grand Jury proceedings are sealed, but some of the deliberations have been unsealed.

Samuel Cruz was shot to death by a New Rochelle police officer during the afternoon of May 26. The shooting occurred at the threshold of Mr. Cruz’s apartment at 18 Hickory Street.

The DA says, “The extensive investigation included interviews of family members, civilians, mental health professionals, police officers, and expert witnesses. Civilian witnesses who were present for a substantial portion of the events immediately preceding Samuel Cruz’s death were interviewed. Evidence was collected from the scene and forensically analyzed by experts in ballistics, toxicology, DNA, and gun shot residue. “

This is the information now available:

•           The evidence included the 911 audio recording.

•           The grand jury heard testimony from 24 witnesses.  Of the 24 witnesses, eight were civilians.  They testified as to their contacts with Mr. Cruz and the police both on May 26, 2013 and three days prior, May 23, 2013.

•           Police personnel who testified included the five police officers who initially responded to Mr. Cruz’s apartment. The police officer who called the Westchester County Prevention and Response Team at St. Vincent’s Hospital testified as did the two officers who discharged their Taser guns. Additionally, the police officer who attempted to find an alternative means of entry by use of a pole camera also testified.  The police officer who fired the fatal shot also testified.  That police officer testified without the protection of immunity from prosecution. In addition, the police officer in charge of New Rochelle police training in the use of physical force testified.

•           Mental health professionals, including Mr. Cruz’s social worker and psychiatrist, testified as did a case worker who oversaw Mr. Cruz’s daily needs and living arrangements.

•           More than 49 exhibits were admitted into evidence before the grand jury.  Included among the exhibits were 42 photographs, a crime scene sketch, two computer generated models of the hallway outside the Cruz’s apartment and the front doorway and the immediate interior of Cruz’s apartment, a video recording of the crime scene, and the autopsy photograph and diagram.  There was testimony from the crime scene detective in connection with the collection and introduction of physical evidence.

•           Expert testimony was elicited from a ballistics expert and a toxicology expert. There was also testimony from the Westchester County Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on the deceased.

•           The grand jury heard all the evidence on the use of physical force and deadly physical force by the police in this encounter. The grand jury also heard the evidence of the threatened use of deadly physical force by Mr. Cruz during the encounter. As required by law, the grand jury was instructed on the defense of justification under article 35 of the Penal Law as to the use of force and deadly physical force by the police. After due deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment. In so doing, the grand jury found the police did not act unjustifiably as defined by New York criminal law in causing the tragic death of Samuel Cruz during his encounter with New Rochelle police officers on May 26, 2013.




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