It’s Time: Read Cops the Riot Act
JUAN GONZALEZ. New York Daily News. New York, N.Y.: Jun 11, 1998. pg. 6
Copyright Daily News, L.P. Jun 11, 1998
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After seven long years, Pierre Regis walked to the witness chair in Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday afternoon to tell his story to a jury.
His is the forgotten tragedy of the Crown Heights riot of Aug. 19, 1991. The names most New Yorkers remember from that first terrible night are Yankel Rosenbaum and Angela and Gavin Cato.
Gavin and his cousin Angela were the two 7-year-olds struck down about 8:30 p.m. when a driver who was part of Grand Rebbe Menachem Schneerson’s entourage sped through a red light and plowed into them near Utica Ave. and President St. Gavin was dead on arrival at Kings County Hospital. Angela survived.
Rosenbaum was the young Hasidic scholar attacked by a mob and fatally stabbed by Lemrick Nelson three hours later and several blocks away.
And then there is Regis. He was also the victim of a mob that night.
A mob in blue uniforms.
That’s what Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes concluded. It’s the same conclusion reached by several police investigators from the old Civilian Complaint Review Board when it was still controlled by the Police Department. Both those investigations failed to identify the cops involved.
Now testimony and documents unearthed in a civil suit by Regis are revealing why. They point to a widespread attempt by police to cover up the truth of what happened to Regis, a poor Haitian immigrant with no powerful community leaders behind him.
This column first reported the Regis story in 1993.
Daily News photos from the riot provided crucial evidence to investigators. They show several cops restraining a bloodied Regis or standing over him as he lay in the street. Many of those cops had previously told investigators in sworn statements they didn’t remember seeing Regis or weren’t at the scene of his arrest.
On the night of the riot he had visited his aunt and girlfriend in Brooklyn and was driving home to Spring Valley, N.Y., in his red Nissan 300ZX. He got lost trying to find Flatbush Ave., and around 10 p.m., he turned onto President St., where a huge crowd had gathered.
“A lot of stuff was going on; people were fighting,” Regis testified. Panicked, he tried to speed up and race through the block. But at the Utica intersection, his trip was halted by a police barricade.
According to Regis, several cops surrounded his car, pulled him from it, threw him to the ground and started to beat and kick him.
Two civilian witnesses backed up that account yesterday.
One was Shawn Francis, a graduate of New York City Technical College whose family owns a record store near the intersection. Francis said he was in the family’s second-floor apartment when he heard a crash and rushed to the window.
There, he “saw a red car parked and cops were beating on the windows of the car. They dragged the black guy out, and they started beating him. They were just hitting him with their sticks.”
“Was he resisting?” asked Glen Miller, Regis’ attorney.
“He couldn’t resist,” Francis said.
That’s not the version given yesterday by retired Highway Patrolman Edmond Decio, an accident investigator.
Decio was in the intersection taking measurements at the scene of the Cato accident. He told the jury he saw the red car speed toward him and stop. He said he saw a cop, whom he couldn’t identify, break the back windshield of the car with a billy club and saw cops drag Regis out of the car.
“He was rolling around and fighting and resisting arrest,” Decio said.
There are two big problems with Decio’s testimony, the jury was told.
First, Regis was never charged with resisting arrest. Police accused him at first of reckless endangerment because of the way he was driving and even that charge was thrown out by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office within days.
Second, a Brooklyn assistant district attorney involved in the Cato case, Maureen McCormick, testified on Tuesday that Decio told her just the opposite 10 days after the incident.
In a memo McCormick produced following her interview with Decio, she wrote: “According to P.O. Decio the other cops proceeded to beat the driver to a ‘pulp.’ When I asked Decio how these guys could be so stupid, he responded that he had no idea . . . that the beating was . . . worse than that depicted on the LAPD/Rodney King tape.”
Yesterday, Decio denied he had made any such statement to McCormick. He accused her of “twisting things around.”
THERE IS MUCH more evidence pointing to a police coverup, as we shall see. It is evidence the public should know about.
Yet Supreme Court Justice Martin Schneier has placed a gag order on the attorneys, even though only one newspaper, this one, has followed this case over the seven years.
What is everyone trying to hide?
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