A New York City officer was acquitted Monday, Nov. 6, in the off-duty shooting that left an unarmed man dead after a late-night road rage incident last summer.
A jury of seven women and five men found Officer Wayne Isaacs not guilty in the shooting death of Delrawn Small, 37, who the officer claimed attacked him during a traffic dispute in Brooklyn on July 4, 2016, The New York Times reported. Isaacs faced both second–degree murder and manslaughter charges in the killing, which could’ve landed him anywhere from 25 years to life behind bars if convicted.
The verdict drew cheers of joy and relief from the officer’s family. Meanwhile, those who had gathered to see justice for Small, including relatives and community activists, were roiled with anger and disbelief.
“Every piece of evidence pointed to a guilty verdict — every single piece,” Small’s brother, Victor Dempsey, said, enraged, according to the New York Post. “He is a murderer, that’s it … How the hell are we supposed to feel now?”
With tears in her eyes, the slain man’s sister, Victoria Davis, expressed disbelief as to how and why the court didn’t find her brother’s killer guilty.
“He took everything from us!” she sobbed.
Isaacs testified in his own defense last week, telling jurors he opened fire on Small after the father of two approached his car at a stoplight and threatened to “f—-g kill” him. He also claimed Small punched him in the face multiple times.
“At this point, I’m thinking, you know, I’m here in East New York, at that time of the night,” Isaacs testified, according to court transcripts.”I’m here and I’m thinking maybe somebody, you know, somebody recognizes me from a previous arrest, or I was going to be carjacked. Something bad seemed like it [was] going to happen because he — you could tell he was in a rage coming at me.”
Surveillance footage released almost a week after the shooting showed no altercation had occurred, however. The grainy footage revealed that the officer started shooting moments before Small even reached the driver side window. He was shot three times at close range before stumbling onto the pavement.
Small’s girlfriend and 14-year-old stepdaughter, who witnessed the deadly shooting from their car, testified that Isaacs had cut them off in traffic minutes before the incident.
Isaacs is the first officer to be tried under a 2015 executive ruling by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to probe and prosecute police killings of unarmed civilians, the Times reported. The order was spurred by public outcry over the high profile police killings of Black Americans.
Isaacs remains on paid suspension and could still face departmental charges, according to the newspaper. Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Alexander Jeong left the officer with these words:
“Only you know what exactly happened out there. So no one’s passing any judgment. And let’s try to hope that we have no further incidents like this in the future. I guess that is the only thing I can hope for.”