State Attorney General Takes Lead In Fatal Yonkers Shooting Inquiry

This is the first significant test of an executive order requiring the office of Eric Schneiderman to review cases involving unarmed civilian fatalities caused by police.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has taken over the inquiry into a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man off the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County. This is the first significant test of Executive Order No. 147, which requires the attorney general to review cases relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement officers.

On Tuesday, Miguel Espinal, a resident of Queens, 36, was shot and killed by an NYPD officer after a high-speed chase that ended near Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers.

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The investigation began soon after the shooting. According to The New York Times, representatives from the attorney general’s office appeared at the scene of the shooting to supervise the gathering of evidence. The New York Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation as well.

“We will work with our partners in law enforcement to conduct a full and fair investigation,” Eric Soufer, a spokesman for the attorney general, told The New York Times.

A special grand jury would be enlisted if Schneiderman’s office finds there is sufficient evidence to press criminal charges in this inquiry. This would effectively take the matter out of Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore’s hands, who was recently appointed to replace Jonathan Lippman as chief judge of the State Court of Appeals.

According to police, Espinal fled from NYPD Officers Garthlette James and Romeo Francis on patrol in a marked car in the Bronx, with a passenger in the car, and crossed into Westchester on the Saw Mill River Parkway.

Turning southbound in the northbound lanes, Espinal crashed the gray 2009 Nissan Z into a median and three other vehicles. Afterwards, he fled from the crash and into Tibbetts Brook Park. It was there that an alleged confrontation resulted in a shot being discharged from Officer James’s weapon, and Espinal being shot.

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The autopsy was completed on Wednesday, however Westchester County officials have not yet received the results.

The passenger, Akeem Smith, 25, was injured in the crash and taken into custody. He was under the impression he was getting a ride from Espinal to pick up his car from an auto body shop, according to The Journal News.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 147 as a response to the public outcry against civilian deaths at the hands of the police that did not result in any indictments. The death of Raynette Turner, 42, in a Mount Vernon holding cell, was the first case investigated under this approach, and is still ongoing. 


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