Thursday, February 5, 2009

Westchester Guardian/The Advocate/Janet Difiore.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Year Later, Serious Doubts Remain Regarding
DA DiFiore’s Handling Of Ridley Killing
Failure To Release Videotapes And Turn Over Clothing
And Personal Effects To Family Point To Coverup


Sunday, January 25, 2009 brought a bitter cold afternoon in White Plains; so cold that holding a camera was very uncomfortable, even with gloves on. Equally painful, and uncomfortable to experience, were the faces viewed through the lens, Janet DiFiore, Andy Spano, David Chong, Clinton Young, Ken Jenkins, clearly there attempting to appear to be showing profound respect for the memory of Mount Vernon Police Detective Christopher Ridley, and concern for his family and loved ones. Once again, as is so often the case with Westchester County
Government, it was a matter of image v reality.

It had been precisely one year to the day since Christopher, a 23-year-old Mount Vernon police of-ficer with two years on the job, was
killed by four Westchester County police officers while he was in the act of trying to apprehend and arrest one Anthony Jacobs, a psychiatrically disturbed individual in his 30s who Ridley, off-duty and visiting White Plains, had seen brutally assaulting a middle-aged
man on the street, breaking both of his wrists for not giving him a cigarette on demand.

The attempt to single-handedly bring Jacobs under control, despite having moments earlier reached out for help from County police officers within the County Martine Avenue, would prove fatal unresolved in the minds of those gathered Sunday to pay their respects.

Officer Ridley’s mother would briefly approach the podium in tears. His dad, Stanley Ridley, spoke of having given his son to the community and of how very much he was missed before he, too, broke into tears before the crowd of more than 150 friends and relatives who had come, not only to pay their respects, but to show their unwavering support for the saddened and still grief-stricken family.

The event was, essentially, built around the unveiling of a plaque in what would henceforth be known as “Christopher Ridley Plaza”, the
and immediately adjacent to, 85 Court Street, site of the tragic incident that claimed the young police officer’s life.

Stanley Ridley, his father, could not hold back his tears, and paused to compose himself three times as he told those gathered, “This has been a very hard year. To even think about not being with him is hard, let alone thinking I won’t be able to see him get married or see grandchildren. He was my only son, and it’s been hard.”

The event was complete with a color guard and statements by Reverend W. Franklyn Richardson, pastor of Mount Vernon’s Grace Baptist Church, Stanley Ridley’s employer, as well as County Executive Andy Spano. Richardson’s remarks seemed somehow very restrained
in light of his prior anguish over the secrecy that surrounds the case. There was a candlelight ceremony and prayer offering. Everything had been orchestrated and choreographed by Larry Schwartz, who was careful to check things over, and then disappear before too many media arrived.

Therein lay the rub. From the mo-ment of Christopher Ridley’s tragic death, Larry Schwartz and Janet DiFiore have been working over-time
Rev. Richardson addresses the gathering to conceal the truth and to put a spin on the official account designed to limit the County’s liability
and responsibility, even to the point of making the actions of a young heroic cop come off looking reckless and unprofessional. As
usual, they will stop at nothing to cover their backsides, even resorting to the suborning of perjury. Those in the crowd with whom we
spoke were not particularly convinced by the DA’s version of the shooting death.

Furthermore, DiFiore’s absolute refusal to turn over Christopher’s clothing and personal effects, including his wallet, to his family, has irritated his parents and caused many to openly question her version of events.

Many are put out with DA DiFiore’s refusal to release the videotapes. Some have pointed to the release of the cellphone video of the
January 28, 2006 shooting of off-duty New York City Police Officer Eric Hernandez, at a White Castle restaurant in The Bronx, by a fellow
police officer who mistook him for an assailant when he refused to drop his gun, and shot him, inflicting severe leg injuries that ultimately
took his life 11 days later.

They point to the fact that Bronx DA Robert Johnson, and the New York City Police Department, released the tape of that tragic shooting slightly less than two years to the day prior to Of-ficer Ridley’s death, leaving absolutely no doubt as to what had actually occurred,
and serving to corroborate DA Johnson’s, and the grand jury's findings.

DiFiore’s refusal to release the video surveillance tapes, taken by as many as six cameras, bought, installed, and maintained with County taxpayers’ funds, is seen as just one more indicator that her account of events, the report released by her grand jury, who listened to witnesses whose accounts were closely controlled by her office would not, in fact, be borne out.

Given their unbearable suffering and loss, the parents and loved ones of Detective Christopher Ridley are entitled to know the truth about the
tragic events that took him from them forever. The People of Westchester who rely upon a District Attorney and a County Executive to
carry out their sworn duties to protect and inform them, are likewise entitled to know the truth.

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