March 30, 2014

Yonkers Man Charges Police Misconduct (Lower Hudson Journal)

By Jonathan Damashek

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By Ernie Garcia

YONKERS – A man who claims he was shot three times by Yonkers police during a drug raid last year plans legal action against the city.

Carlos Sullivan, 48, a building superintendent, said police shot him June 14 in a hail of bullets after officers forced their way into his Walnut Street apartment.

Sullivan said he and his children were asleep at the time of the dawn raid, when police burst into a bedroom and shot the family’s pit bulls, killing three of them.

“I thought they were going to kill us,” said Sullivan, who was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, felonies.

Police insist that Sullivan was not shot when they executed a “no-knock” search warrant on his apartment, where they reported finding two pieces of crack cocaine and packaging materials. Police said they shot the dogs because they were attacking the officers.

Police spokeswoman Lt. Diane Hessler said police took Sullivan to the hospital after the raid because he had three abrasions on his body.

“They took X-rays. There is no indication that he was shot,” Hessler said.

She declined to say how many shots were fired during the raid on Sullivan’s apartment because one defendant is still facing unresolved charges in the case.

Hessler also could not say how many times Yonkers police discharged their weapons in incidents over the course of 2007.

The Journal News inspected two of Sullivan’s injuries last week, which look like small, round scars. Sullivan claims that more than a dozen shots were fired in his apartment.

His daughter, Zuleyka Sullivan, 18, and Thomas Collins, 17, were also each charged with two counts of felony drug possession.

Carlos Sullivan’s legal filings claim that the felony charges against him were later dropped or resolved in his favor.

The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office declined comment on the resolution of Carlos Sullivan’s and Thomas Collins’ cases, saying the court records have been sealed. Zuleyka Sullivan’s cases remain unresolved; the court issued an arrest warrant for her after she did not attend court dates.

Sullivan’s lawyer filed legal papers last month in the state Supreme Court in White Plains seeking an extension of a deadline to file a formal notice of claim against the city, the first step toward bringing a lawsuit in the matter. Yonkers has since granted an extension of the deadline.

The Journal News learned of Sullivan’s case during a routine check of court records.

Sullivan’s attorney, Jonathan S. Damashek, a New York City lawyer, has represented other clients alleging police misconduct.

“I don’t have all the records, but it’s one of the most egregious I’ve ever seen and it certainly shows a lack of investigation and preparation on the behalf of the Yonkers Police Department,” said Damashek, who intends to file Sullivan’s civil rights case in federal court.

The Justice Department is investigating the Yonkers Police Department for alleged systemic violations of the Constitution in the use of force by police officers.

Damashek said he contacted federal authorities about his client’s allegations.

Local media did not report on Sullivan’s arrest last year. Hessler said information about the incident was available to the press at the time.

Karen Edmonson, president of the Yonkers chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she was not aware of Sullivan’s case or allegations, but expressed concern that police could discharge their weapons multiple times in a residential area without publicizing the incident.

“The public and parents have a right to know how these incidents are handled,” she said. “The police are public servants”.