A police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African immigrant after a serpentine chase inside a warehouse was convicted Friday of criminally negligent homicide. The judge who heard the retrial of Bryan Conroy acquitted him of the more serious charge of second-degree manslaughter. Conroy, 27, is to be sentenced Dec. 2 and could receive probation or up to four years in prison.
The officer, who was working undercover, fatally shot Ousmane Zongo, 43, two years ago inside a storage warehouse during a police raid in which two suspected counterfeiters of CDs and DVDs were arrested.
Zongo, a native of Burkina Faso in West Africa who repaired art and musical instruments inside the building, was not connected to the counterfeiting case. Conroy contended that Zongo tried to disarm him, and he shot Zongo four times _ two wounds were in the back _ in self defense.
Assistant District Attorney Armand Durastanti said the officer, on the job since 2000, engaged in reckless conduct that was not justified by the situation. Instead of showing his badge to Zongo, he pulled out his gun and pointed it at him, Durastanti said.
The case prompted comparisons with the shooting of Amadou Diallo, who was shot to death in 1999 by four officers who said he fit the description of a rape suspect and they mistook his wallet for a gun. Those officers were acquitted of state criminal charges.
Conroy's first trial ended in March with the jury deadlocked 10-2 for conviction. Conroy's lawyer, Stuart London, said he will appeal the verdict. In the meantime, he said he will ask the judge to sentence Conroy to probation, AP reports.
Zongo's wife, Salimata Sanfo, speaking through an interpreter outside the courthouse, said: "I am very happy. ... When I go back to Africa, I will tell everybody that justice can be had in the United States."