New York Times
March 21, 2000

Mrs. Clinton Joins Fray Over Police Shooting


In unusually harsh language, Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani last night of intentionally polarizing New York City by leading "a rush to judgment" over the disputed circumstances of last week's fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

"Last week, the mayor and I both said that New Yorkers should wait and reserve judgment on this latest case until all the facts come out," Mrs. Clinton, who is running against Mr. Giuliani for the United States Senate, said during an appearance at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Harlem. "I am still waiting for a full and fair investigation. Unfortunately, the mayor has not, and that is just wrong."

Specifically, Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Giuliani for portraying the dead man, Patrick Dorismond, as a violent, hot-tempered criminal while extolling Anthony Vasquez, the detective who shot Mr. Dorismond, as a dedicated and courageous undercover narcotics officer.

"Everyone, whether he is a police officer or a civilian, is entitled to equal protection under the law and a fair investigation before any judgment is rendered," she said. "That should be the rule and all of us should abide by it. It is wrong to attack either the character of Patrick Dorismond or the police officer."

The mayor did not immediately respond to Mrs. Clinton's remarks, but his campaign manager, Bruce Teitelbaum, said, "Once again, Mrs. Clinton is shamelessly doing her best to exploit this for political purposes, just like she did when she rushed to judgment and called the police officers involved in the Diallo case 'murderers' during her visit with her pal Al Sharpton."

Since the shooting last Thursday, many of the city's elected officials have accused Mr. Giuliani of demonizing Mr. Dorismond to deflect criticism from the Police Department, which is the subject of a broad civil rights inquiry by Loretta Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn.

In particular, they have expressed anger over Mr. Giuliani's decision during his first news briefing about 15 hours after the shooting to have Police Commissioner Howard Safir release details of Mr. Dorismond's arrest history, but not information about Detective Vasquez's disciplinary record, although it was later available at Police Headquarters.

Mr. Giuliani's aides explained yesterday that the mayor and the police commissioner had failed to reveal the detective's disciplinary history because they had not known about his troubled record.

"The reason we didn't put that information out," said Sunny Mindel, the mayor's spokeswoman, "is that we were revealing information as it became available. As we got information, we put it out."

The city's corporation counsel, Michael D. Hess, said yesterday, "The full histories of both parties were probably not yet totally researched." He noted that police officials subsequently briefed reporters about some aspects of Detective Vasquez's disciplinary history.

The release has prompted a fury of condemnation from many of Mr. Giuliani's political opponents. Yesterday, there were demands for investigations, for resignations, for apologies.

"These are serious matters," said C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, "and the mayor and the police commissioner cannot simply use the laws for personal gain and expect other people to follow the letter of the law." Ms. Fields called on Jonathan Lippman, New York City's chief administrative judge, to investigate the mayor's release of Mr. Dorismond's juvenile record.

Others, including Mr. Dorismond's family, the Legal Aid Society and Haitian community groups, urged Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer to investigate what they called the mayor's "illegal release" of Mr. Dorismond's juvenile arrest history.

But Mr. Hess said yesterday that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Safir did nothing wrong in releasing Mr. Dorismond's arrest information.

Juvenile records are kept confidential to protect defendants from suffering the consequences of youthful indiscretions with, for example, prospective employers. But Mr. Dorismond's death ended the need for confidentiality, he said. "An individual's right of privacy protection is limited to being a living person and is extinguished upon death," he said, noting, for example, that libel laws do not apply to dead people.

Saying the mayor wanted to be "evenhanded" in his release of information, Mr. Hess said new background information would be released about Detective Vasquez and Mr. Dorismond as it was learned.

In that spirit, Mr. Hess revealed a new allegation yesterday against Mr. Dorismond. He said police records showed that on March 7, Mr. Dorismond's girlfriend, Karen Sturkey, filed a complaint against him alleging that he had struck her head and cursed at her during an argument about their 1-year-old daughter.

The next day, she told the police, Mr. Dorismond made harassing phone calls to her.

According to Mr. Hess, the police took no action in the case, which was closed.

Law enforcement officials also disclosed details of an incident four years ago in which Mr. Dorismond had been approached by an undercover narcotics officer.

That incident, on April 9, 1996, led to Mr. Dorismond's fourth and most recent arrest, on a charge of possession of marijuana. But the following day, the case was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, a form of probation in which the criminal charge is dismissed if the person is not involved in any trouble for a set period, usually six months.

In the incident, Mr. Dorismond was approached in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn by an undercover officer looking to buy crack cocaine, the officials said. The undercover officer reported that Mr. Dorismond told him, " 'My man will hook you up,' " but Mr. Dorismond's companion never returned, the officials said. Eventually, the undercover officer's backup team moved in, searched Mr. Dorismond and found a small amount of marijuana in his pocket.

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