Exposing the NYPD’s lies about Delrawn

July 27, 2016

The family of Delrawn Small and their supporters are standing up to demand justice after another racist killing by New York police, write Ronnie Almonte.

ON JULY 4--as people in the U.S. celebrated Independence Day--an NYPD officer shot and killed another African American man. The media took for granted the cop's story that he acted in self-defense--until a video emerged later showing that Delrawn Small was murdered in cold blood.

Small was driving his car, which also carried his girlfriend and two young children, on Atlantic Avenue in East New York when he was cut off by another vehicle. At a stoplight, Small, frustrated by the other driver's carelessness, walked over to the other vehicle. Wayne Isaacs, an NYPD officer who was off duty at the time, didn't stop to ask questions. He shot first.

At least two shots hit Small, causing him to stumble and fall onto the concrete. Isaacs then left his car and walked toward Small. He tucked the gun in his waistband, looked at Small's bleeding body, and then walked back to his car, leaving his victim to die.

That wasn't how the shooting was initially reported. Media reports like the one in the New York Post repeated the police claim that Small had punched Isaacs several times before Isaacs shot Small in self-defense. This, of course, has become par for the course with police killings--officers falsely claim they were threatened and had to fire on victims like Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald and, most recently, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Family and friends participate in a vigil for Delrawn Small
Family and friends participate in a vigil for Delrawn Small (Families United 4 Justice)

Isaacs remained on duty, and and the NYPD asked its officers few questions--until one week later, when video of the incident showed that Isaacs, completely unprovoked by any violence, opened fire literally seconds after he was approached by Small.

Small's sister Victoria Davis described the seemingly nonchalant nature of Isaacs' actions: "[Delrawn was] stumbling, and even when the officer got out of the car, he didn't seem to have any care."

Had the footage not been released, we would never have known the truth about the murder of Delrawn Small. Isaacs, a cop at the 79th Precinct in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, has since been assigned to desk duty.

SMALL'S FAMILY and Black Lives Matter activists are courageously making sure that this case doesn't get forgotten. Two days after the murder, on July 7, Small's family held a vigil at the site of his killing to demand justice. Delrawn's brother, Victor Dampsey, told the crowd of 200 people:

If we don't get justice, I don't know what the system is about...I don't care if they said he punched him. I don't care if they say he should have stayed in the car. I don't care if they say he shouldn't have been driving, or he shouldn't have been in Brooklyn. At the end of the day, he got shot by a cop for no reason."

Chants of "Bratton must go" rang out at the vigil--referring to New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. The family is demanding has hired a lawyer and is working with local officials to pursue their case against Isaacs. Wenona Hauser Small, Delrawn's wife, filed a $25 million lawsuit against the NYPD for wrongful death.

Meanwhile, activists with Black Youth Project (BYP) 100 held a sit-in at the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's (PBA) offices on July 20, linking this most recent case of police murder to broader community issues. One activist told Think Progress: "We are here today, to demand three things: disband the PBA, fire Officer Isaacs, defund the police, and fund Black futures."

Other protests and actions have also been taking place in Manhattan and in Brooklyn to draw attention to Delrawn's death.

WHILE FAMILY members and their supporters demand justice, the message from those who oversee the NYPD struck a different tone. After the video revealing the true nature of the incident came out, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was "disturbing"--but went on to say "We have to hear from the attorney general what his investigation reveals. On its face, it's disturbing, but it's not completely clear, so I can't fully conjecture obviously."

On July 12, one week after Small's murder, Bratton and de Blasio held a press conference in which they spoke not a word about police violence, but celebrated how "safe" the NYPD has made New York. By almost every measure, they noted, crime is down, which Bratton attributed to the NYPD's success in "stopping the right people."

Speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement, Bratton said he was upset about what he called a form of "bigotry" practiced by activists. "We need to see police not as racists and bigots and murderers," Bratton said. "Unfortunately, some are. And we'll find them, and we'll deal with them."

Bratton's grudging and qualified concession that there are some bad cops was followed by a comparison to the Black community: "[M]uch the same as, unfortunately, there is so much crime in the Black community. But are all 40 million Blacks in America criminals? Not at all."

So police violence, according to Bratton, is caused by just a "few bad apples," and anyone who calls the whole institution racist is "bigoted." Yet he oversees an institution that has carried out the racist "stop-and-frisk" policy--and has destroyed the lives many Black people in the city in the NYPD's effort to stop "the right people," as he put it.

Make no mistake: The NYPD is racist to its core. That is what the unprovoked murder of Delrawn Small shows us.

At his press conference with Bratton, de Blasio said he was glad to see the country talking about racism and police brutality. But politicians, if they even do "talk," always speak more favorably about police than their victims, and they save their nastiest abuse for those who do more than just talk by protesting. Recently, de Blasio lectured protesters about the need to "recognize the pain that our police are going through" after the shootings in Dallas "and be very respectful."

As if that weren't enough, de Blasio added that the police in Dallas were there to protect Black Lives Matter protesters and defend their First Amendment rights. He put the onus on activists to police their movement: "We encourage anybody that overhears or hears of anybody that wants to harm police officers to please contact us."

Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, however, protests have been overwhelming peaceful. Protesters are told repeatedly to have sympathy for police officers, to be patient and to be understanding.

But where is the sympathy when police routinely kill innocent people, desecrate memorials to victims of police brutality and arrest protesters? Where is the sympathy from politicians who allow killer cops to keep earning salaries, refuse to stand with victims of police violence and call for respecting the law when courts fail to deliver justice?

While de Blasio and Bratton pat themselves on the back for putting more cops on the streets, opponents of racist police violence are continuing to respond to new injustices. We stand with the family of Delrawn Small against police brutality--and raise our voices to declare that Black lives must matter.

Further Reading

From the archives