NEW CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Rockland County grand jury has decided that a police officer was justified when he killed an agitated Haitian immigrant in an early-morning shooting outside a bar last year.
The grand jury found no crime had been committed in the Dec. 14 shooting of Herve Gilles, 48, of Spring Valley, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Tuesday.
An investigation found that Gilles, who had a record of drunkenness and mental illness, was beating Spring Valley Officer John Roper with Roper’s nightstick when the officer fired, hitting Gilles in the neck and then in the head, Zugibe said.
“Roper was in fear for his life,” Zugibe said.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
The officer had been summoned to to El Buen Gusto bar and restaurant on a report that Gilles was causing a disturbance.
Gilles’ survivors are unhappy with the grand jury finding and will seek a federal investigation, said family attorney Sanford Rubenstein. He said a wrongful death lawsuit would be filed against Spring Valley and Roper.
WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman On The Story
“The grand jury relied too heavily on the officer’s testimony,” Rubenstein said. “We were told no independent witnesses came forward, so we feel we don’t really know what happened.”
“At the very least it’s an issue of training,” he added. “Roper knew Herve Gilles was a paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic, and he shouldn’t have ended up dead.”
Maria Elias, Gilles’ step-sister, believes he should’ve been taken in for treatment, not shot to death.
“We are very disappointed in the results,” Elias said. “The fight for justice continues.”
Some in Spring Valley’s large Haitian community alleged racial discrimination, and there have been several demonstrations demanding justice.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)