New York elected officials are demanding a second investigation into the four-year-old police slaying of a hammer-wielding Orthodox man in Brooklyn.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn, both Democrats, have mobilized separate efforts calling for a reopening of the investigation and urging Jewish groups to break their protracted silence on the issue.
The 1999 police shooting of Gideon Busch, a newly religious man living in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, sparked outrage from local Orthodox leaders and left-wing civil-rights advocates including Reverend Al Sharpton, now a presidential candidate. But the case has generally been ignored by Jewish communal organizations, including the main defense groups.
Busch was shot 12 times by cops as he exited his apartment wielding a hammer. Four officers on the scene said Busch was lunging at them when they opened fire, but several eyewitnesses testified that Busch was posing no threat when he was gunned down. A state grand jury cleared the cops.
The incident received fresh scrutiny in June when the Daily News reported that a federal prosecutor believed that cops may have “colluded with one another” to coordinate their story. The prosecutor’s concern was raised in a 2001 letter that was only recently obtained by the Busch family through a civil lawsuit.
In an interview with the Forward, Hikind decried Jewish communal organizations for remaining mum on the issue. Hikind said it was “ironic” that Sharpton called him to offer assistance after the incident while no Jewish organization has since phoned him “as the public official in this community to find out the facts.”
“I don’t know why in many instances Jewish groups with huge staffs aren’t there for the Jewish community,” Hikind said. “This is one example.” Hikind said he is conducting a study into the effectiveness of the largest American Jewish organizations.
Fifteen City Council members signed a letter asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg to revisit the case; some five to 10 members of the state Senate and Assembly are expected to sign on, according to Hikind’s office.
Nadler issued a statement last month insisting that the Justice Department resurrect the Busch civil rights case. He said the decision to close the investigation despite suspicions of collusion “was a dereliction of the duty of federal law enforcement officials.”
He called for an internal review into the conduct of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, which handled the case. “The secrecy with which the Justice Department buried what appears to be a damning case smacks of the worst kind of cover-up,” Nadler said in his statement.
In light of recent developments in the case, Nadler said that Jewish organizations should “get involved now.” He did not, however, criticize the inaction of Jewish groups in the past.
The prosecutor stated in the letter that despite suspicions of collusion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office could not “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that a civil-rights violation occurred and suggested that the case “warrant[s] further review by the New York City Police Department.” City lawyers are arguing that the witnesses may have collaborated on their story.
The executive vice president of New York’s Jewish Community Relations Council, Michael Miller, declined to comment, saying he had yet to speak with law enforcement authorities about the case.