Zongo Killing: Officer Convicted

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In a first, an NYPD officer was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the shooting death of an unarmed African immigrant in New York City.

"It’s a half and half victory," Cheick Maiga, supporter of, and translator for Ousman Zongo’s family told The Black Star News as he exited Manhattan State Supreme courtroom, Friday. He had just heard the verdict in the manslaughter case of Zongo, an art dealer from Burkina Faso slain by an NYPD officer. "It was a struggle," Maiga told Black Star. "They said it couldn’t be done. Now police officers will think twice before they kill people. It’s the first step."

For the first time, in a trial of its kind, an NYPD officer didn’t walk. Officer Brian Conroy killed Zongo in 2003. Salimata Sanfo,

Ousman Zongo’s widow, spoke through in her Moré language, through a translator: "We’re very happy. We thank all New Yorkers who came out and supported …� She added that while "disappointed," it was not a second degree manslaughter conviction, with longer sentencing guideline of five to 15 years, “It was still a victory."

The family returned to Burkina Faso but will be back December 2 for the sentencing. On May 22, 2003, in a warehouse in Chelsea, Manhattan, Zongo, a 43, was restoring imported African art and sculptures damaged during transportation from the Continent to the U.S. He had only been in the U.S. for two years—he had planned to return home in the not too distant future. Officer Bryan Conroy’s bullets put an end to that hope.

The first trial in March had ended in a hung jury, with a 10-2 vote in favor of conviction. This time around, Conroy opted for a bench trial before Justice Robert Strauss.

If Conroy thought the judge would sway his way, it didn’t work out as he’d envisioned. Judge Strauss announced that he had carefully weighed up the evidence and the testimony in the 10-day retrial. After acquitting Conroy on the more serious charge, he pronounced him guilty on the criminally negligent homicide charge.

Conroy, who’d been working undercover on the fateful night, claimed that when Zongo came out of no where, he pulled out his gun, and they got into a chase and struggle. He said Zongo tried to wrestle the gun from him. Zongo was shot four times: in the chest, abdomen, and upper

back, and was grazed on his right arm. With just three years on the job, the prosecution argued that Conroy was a bit of a cowboy cop and that he had killed Zongo at point blank range—Zongo was not and never had been a suspect. He was just a family man who worked at the warehouse restoring African artifacts and instruments.

“That is surprising as hell," gasped 20-year-NYPD veteran, Capt. Eric Adams, when told of the conviction. Adams, who heads 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, was in San Francisco when reached.

The verdict “Shows we continue to make progress in white-on-Black Crime,� added Michael Hardy, co-counsel for the Zongo family. “There was a time when this verdict would have been impossibility.�

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement that the  killing was “tragic,â€? was a weak reaction to the verdict. “There was a conviction. He should say that this was a crime. This happened under his watch," Sharpton said.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, the officers’ union, claimed, Conroy’s conviction would have a "chilling effect" on officers on patrol: "The benefit of the doubt should always go to the police officer.�

For more reports please or call (212) 481-7745 to order the newsstand edition of The Black Star News the world’s favorite Pan African news weekly. Also ask for Vernon Verdree in the advertisement department.

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