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Grand Jury Clears Cop Who Fatally Shot New Rochelle Man

Samuel Cruz Was Killed In His Apartment In May
Samuel Cruz (credit: Handout)

Samuel Cruz (credit: Handout)

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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A grand jury declined to indict a New Rochelle police officer who shot and killed a mentally distubed man inside his apartment in May.

Samuel Cruz, 48, was shot dead after his estranged wife called police May 26 because she was worried about the man. Police said he would not open the door and threatened officers with a knife when they broke in. They said stun guns failed to stop Cruz and when he lunged with the knife, Officer Steven Geertgens shot and killed him.

Cruz’s family said the man had mental health problems and was off his medication, according to published reports.

The grand jury determined there was no crime after listening to a 911 recording and testimony from 24 witnesses.

Family attorney Randolph McLaughlin told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell the grand jury’s decision was not surprising.

“This is the second time that the Westchester County District Attorney’s office has failed to get an indictment in a case where a police officers show up to render aid and wind up killing someone in their homes,” McLaughlin said.

In a strinkingly similar incident in December 2011, White Plains police fatally shot Kenneth Chamberlain, 68, when officers were dispatched to check on the man after his medical alert device went off. Police said Chamberlain armed himself with a knife and hatchet, and then charged when the officers broke down his door. A grand jury also declined to indict the officer who shot Chamberlain.

Cruz’s familiy is suing New Rochelle and its police department for $21 million, alleging officers used excessive force.

“The officers are not being trained properly on how to handle cases involving individuals who have mental illness or who are emotionally distressed,” McLaughlin said.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)