NEW YORK (AP) — From the start, Delrawn Small’s family disputed the early police account of how an off-duty officer shot him dead: that the officer fired after Small repeatedly punched him through his car window in a clash over traffic.
Now that security video has emerged and cast doubt on that narrative, Small’s relatives feel vindicated and rueful at what they call an unfair and vilifying portrayal of him.
“We are going to get justice … because that video shows that guy (the officer) was outright wrong,” Small’s brother, Victor Dempsey, said Thursday.
But mostly, he said, he wanted “to change the perception of who my brother was.”
Small, 37, was killed on a Brooklyn street on July 4, at the start of what would become a week of national anguish over deadly police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Ridge, Minnesota, and the killings of five police officers in Dallas by a gunman claiming vengeance. Small also was black; unlike in the Louisiana and Minnesota cases, the officer also is black and was off duty.
The officer, Wayne Isaacs, has been stripped of his badge and gun as the New York Police Department and the state attorney general’s office investigate. Police Commissioner William Bratton has said it’s too early to say whether the shooting was justified.
The police union representing Isaacs has declined to comment.
The unarmed Small was in a car with his companion, Zaquanna Albert, when they crossed paths with Isaacs as he headed home from work in civilian clothes. Albert told police Small thought Isaacs had cut him off and got out of his car at a stoplight to confront the officer.
Based on a preliminary investigation, police initially said they believed Isaacs opened fire after Small reached through the officer’s open window and repeatedly hit him in the head as he sat behind the wheel.
But in the grainy black-and-white video, virtually the moment Small walks up to the window, he recoils, stumbles and collapses, with no clear indication that he first lashed out at the officer. The officer briefly exits his car and looks in the fallen man’s direction but then returns to the car.
Small’s relatives want Isaacs to be criminally charged. To Dempsey, his brother’s death bespeaks police abusing deadly force and their power, regardless of race.
“We have to change the way we look at each other as humans in our own society,” he said Thursday at a news conference, flanked by relatives of more than a half-dozen other people killed by law enforcement officers over the past two decades. All are members of the organization Families United 4 Justice, which is raising money to aid Small’s family.
Small and Albert had a 4-month-old son together.
“He was the structure that I needed in my life,” she said, “and he’s gone.”