A New York City jury decided yesterday (November 6) that New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Wayne Isaacs will face no jail time for shooting and killing Delrawn Small in 2016. Small’s family members now turn their attention to taking Isaacs off the streets.
The New York Daily News reports that jurors acquitted Isaacs on second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter charges after three days of deliberation. Newsweek notes that the jury consisted of “five White people, five Black people, one [Latinx person] and one Asian person.”
The charges stemmed from an incident on July 4, 2016, in which the off-duty policeman shot Small three times through his open car window. Newsweek says that Small, who is Black, apparently confronted Isaacs, who is also Black, after the officer cut him off in traffic. Isaacs told investigators that Small provoked the altercation by punching him, but surveillance video showed Isaacs shooting Small within seconds of his approach. The New York Times reports that Smalls died soon after one of the bullets pierced his aorta, and that Isaacs did not disclose that he fired his gun when he called 911.
The Times notes that attorney general’s office prosecutors argued that Isaacs had other options besides shooting Small, while the officer’s attorneys defended the punching account and contested that it justified the fatal shooting.
“Today, the justice system made a statement that it does not equally value Black life and the life of our brother, Delrawn Small,” Small’s siblings Victoria Davis and Victor Dempsey said in a statement from the Communities United for Police Reform advocacy coalition yesterday. “The fact that Officer Isaacs was Black does not diminish the systemic issues of racialized fear, and the criminalization of Blackness, that allow a jury to consider the killing of an unarmed Black man by a police officer as justified.”
Davis and Dempsey go on to demand that NYPD commissioner James O’Neill and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio fire Isaacs. "An officer who is so trigger-happy that he immediately shoots not once, not twice, but three times and kills a civilian simply approaching his car is a threat to public safety,” they say. “The fact that Officer Isaacs failed to protect public safety—shooting Delrawn three times and then failing to administer emergency care or even alert 911 to the fact that he shot him, which led to Delrawn bleeding out on the street and dying—is a clear indication that he doesn’t deserve the responsibility of being a police officer.”
The NYPD placed Isaacs on modified desk duty and stripped him of his weapon following the release of the video. Department officials told Newsweek that Isaacs will remain in that position while the NYPD conducts its own internal investigation.