Patrick Dorismond Hearing – January 27, 2021, 8 am Eastern

Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Patrick Dorismond


  • Rapporteur Ria Julien
  • Commissioner Ms. Hina Jilani
  • Commissioner Prof. Niloufer Bhagwat
  • Derek Sells, attorney for the Dorismond family

Ria Julien  00:34

Good morning, everyone. It is Wednesday, January 27. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. these hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black people by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human of human rights experts. We now begin in the case of Patrick Dorismond. My name is Ria Julian and I am the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over the hearings today are commissioners Niloufer Bhagwat of India, and Hina Jilani of Pakistan. The witnesses for the hearing are Derek Sells of the Cochran Firm. There will be a 50 minutes; there will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify followed by a period of questions from commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark. And at the 45 minute mark. Commissioners Bhagwat and Jilani, I now present to you your first witness Derek Sells, I will now swear in the witness, Mr. Derek Sells, please confirm your name.

Derek Sells  01:56

My name is Derek Sells.

Ria Julien  01:58

Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Derek Sells  02:04

I do.

Ria Julien  02:05

You may begin.

Derek Sells  02:07

Thank you. And good morning, commissioners. I’m very honored to be here. I’m very honored to speak on behalf of Patrick Dorismond, who was a law abiding 29 year old man at the time that this happened back in March, on March 15, of the year 2000. And there was a time in New York City where Giuliani was the mayor, and there was an awful amount of racial profiling that was taking place by the NYPD, something that really hasn’t changed over the years. But it was in it was in grand fashion back in March of 2000. Then, Patrick Dorismond was working as a security guard for a company known as the 34th Street partnership, and 34th Street, right and, right around Eighth Avenue, there are a number of retail locations. So there were a great number of retail locations. And so these locations joined together to form this 34th Street partnership. And what they did was they hired a private security force that went around and patrolled the area in or around Penn Station and the corridor through to where the the bus depot is in the Times Square area as well. And so Patrick was working as a security guard, the evening of March 15 2000, when his shift ended at about 11 o’clock. He and some of his colleagues from the partnership went to a lounge on Eighth Avenue and 38th Street, a lounge called the Wakamba Lounge.

While he was there with some of his work colleagues, they ran into some people who were traveling from Europe. And you know, Patrick had a couple of drinks with them. But then he wanted to get home to Brooklyn, where where his children were. So he left the Wakamba Lounge at just about 11:40 that evening, and he waited outside to catch a cab. He was with one of his colleagues, a person named Kevin Kaiser. Now Patrick Dorismond was a six foot one African American man. And Kevin Kaiser was just a he was a tad bit shorter. But he was a light skinned Hispanic man. And the two of them were just, you know, talking outside. But unbeknownst to them, they were approached by an undercover police officer. At the time, the police were acting, what’s known as a buy bust operation, where they had three undercover officers who acted as if they were common street hoods, looking to score crack cocaine. And these three men were not really trained in how to act as undercover officers in this regard. They basically just acted in a way that they believe they should act in order to attract a drug dealer, who would then sell them cocaine or some other drug, and then an arrest team would come in, arrest them, and they would, you know, put them into a van. And then once the van was filled, they would drive them off to the lockup. This produced a great amount of overtime work for the police, as they would have to process up to 10 individuals since the van held 10 people, they would get credit for 10 arrests, they would have to do paperwork. And all of these police officers scored a great amount of overtime, which benefited them financially.

So getting back to March 15, at just about 1140 this undercover officer named Anderson Moran approached Patrick Dorismond and Kevin Kaiser and asked them, you know, for cocaine, he wanted crack, and Patrick Dorismond said, and I’m gonna curse. You know, this is what exactly Patrick Dorfman said to Anderson Moran. He said, Get the fuck away from me. I’m not a steerer. And that should have been the end of it. Here’s a police officer trying to engage Mr. Dorismond in the sale of drugs. And Mr. Dorismond did what any law abiding citizen would do. He told him to get away from him. He didn’t want to have any involvement. But Anderson Moran kept going at Patrick, and said, you know, something to engage Patrick some more. Now, what’s interesting is that Anderson Moran was asked, as part of the litigation, why did he approach Patrick and Kevin Kaiser? What was his reason? And he simply said, because of the time of day, which was about 11:49. And the fact that Patrick Dorfman and Kevin Kaiser appeared to him to be African American. And those were his reasons. He said it openly. He didn’t give any other explanation for why he approached them. And when Patrick told him know, that he didn’t want to sell any drugs, that he was not involved in the drug trade. Anderson Moran couldn’t explain why he didn’t simply walk away.

What I believe is that the reason he didn’t walk away was because up until that point, the police had arrested eight other individuals who engaged in the sale of drugs. The van holds 10 people. And so Patrick Dorismond and Kevin Kaiser would have added up to the 10 people. Anderson Moran got up in Patrick Dorismond’s face, and Patrick told him to back up or he would whoop his ass. At that point, another undercover officer, officer Cruz approached. And told Moran, hey, I told you to get that stuff from over there, not here. At which point they engaged again with Patrick and Kaiser, to the point where Patrick and Kaiser squared off thinking that they were going to have to fight these two people who are involved in the drug trade. These two individuals never identified themselves as police officers. And so Patrick didn’t know what he was up against. squared off, at which point Anson Moran gave the code signal for making an arrest by saying, what are you going to fucking rob me? And that was the code signal. Right? So these police officers were wired. And so when he said that, in approached the third undercover officer, Officer Vasquez. Now, Officer Vasquez, I don’t even have any idea why he was still on the police force at this point in time. I say that because prior to this incident, Officer Vasquez had been involved in two unjustified uses of his police issued gun. So police officer Vasquez had once shot and killed his neighbor’s dog and his neighbor’s dog who was trying to dig under an adjoining fence that was adjoining the property of Vasquez and his neighbor. The dog was trying to get under the fence. And so Vasquez took it upon himself to take his police gun and shoot the dog to death. For that, Vasquez was not really disciplined in any significant way, and he was allowed to keep his gun.

But Vasquez also had another incident where he was involved in a bar fight in Pennsylvania, where police under the NYPD rules were not allowed to drink and have their gun with them at the same time, whether on or off duty. But Vasquez somehow was able to be in a bar, drink in Pennsylvania, while he was off duty and got involved in a bar fight where Vasquez has pulled out his gun. He didn’t shoot anybody, but he fired it into the ceiling of the bar. That was a clear violation of NYPD policy. The NYPD was aware of this violation. But again, they did not significantly discipline Vasquez, he was allowed to keep his gun and it didn’t raise any red flags that he was somebody who could not be trusted with deadly force. So anyway, Vasquez was the one who came in response to this call. And almost immediately upon arriving at the scene where he sees Patrick Dorismond, squared off with police, even though no punches were thrown at this point. He shot Patrick Dorismond in the chest. Patrick went to the ground. And as he was laying on the ground, gasping for air by this point, the supervisor of the of the arrest team had arrived at the scene. And he told the police the other arriving police to cuff that dead motherfucker. Excuse my French, but that’s what he said cuff that dead motherfucker who was laying on the street. So they did, they handcuffed Patrick Dorismond and they didn’t give him any first aid.

And by the time EMS arrives and got into the hospital, it was too late. Mr. Dorismond had died from that gunshot wound that was inflicted by police officer Vasquez, someone who was allowed to keep his gun after those incidents that I’ve previously described. Now, despite the fact that Patrick Dorismond committed no crime that day, I guess his only crime was saying no to drugs, which was a catchphrase of Nancy Reagan, who was the first lady a few years before this incident happened. Just say no to drugs. Well, Patrick Dorismond said no to drugs. And because he was an African American man, he still ended up shot and killed. Now, back when Giuliani was the mayor, there was a common practice that anytime there was a police shooting, regardless of the circumstances, the the mayor, the police commissioner, all took the same tack. And that was to defend the police at all costs. And part of the defense there was sort of like this playbook, where they would demonize the victim, even if the victim was innocent. They tried to make them out to be a demon. And so what Giuliani did, in order to try and demonize Patrick Dorismond was he released through his own words, juvenile, juvenile records of Patrick Dorismond that are meant to be private, they’re by law, they’re kept private, because they’re juvenile violations. And under the law, juvenile violations are not crimes. Instead, they’re acts of delinquency, which are supposed to be protected by by the law from being released. But nonetheless, Giuliani talked about Patrick having arrests. And he talked about this on a, on a talk show where he was asked a question was, you know, was Patrick Dorismond ever, ever arrested?

Giuliani said yeah, he was arrested for crimes of violence. And the question asked to Giuliani was, was he convicted? And Giuliani said yes, he was convicted. And of course, that was not true. It was a lie. And then Giuliani finished off his comments by saying, you know, Patrick Dorismond was no altar boy, which again, Giuliani was wrong. Patrick Dorismond was in fact, an altar boy, growing up, he was very religious. He came from a very strong family. He had, you know, a great mom, rest her soul. And a great dad, who looked after him, loved him. They dubbed him St. Patrick, because he was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. And so he died two days before his birthday, after having done what any law abiding citizen would do when confronted by individuals looking to engage in the sale of drugs. And so, that is the that is the background for why Patrick Dorismond died. He was a Black man standing on a street corner at 1140 at night. He left behind two daughters and a loving family, many friends at his funeral, it was packed. So many people came to see him off. And it was a tragic loss of life. For someone who served as a security guard, someone who served to protect people from crime. I welcome any questions that you might have. But this is a tragic, senseless loss of life.

Ria Julien  19:11

Thank you, Mr. Sells. I’d like now to turn it over to the commissioners for any questions they may have.

Derek Sells  19:32

I now I can hear you. Yes. But not now. I can’t hear you now.

Niloufer Bhagwat  19:53

Can you hear me?

Derek Sells  19:55

Now I can hear you. Yes.

Niloufer Bhagwat  19:59

These crimes related to so called policing for drugs, the reality, could you tell us whether it is correct that the African American community was targeted in a drug war, which was in a sense, hypocritical, because agencies in the United States and all of the world we’re running a drug trade? And they were targeting the poorer communities as victims of both the drug trade and the drug war. And this incident is related to a policy decision that was taken, that African Americans should be targeted, should be victimized. And made examples, even though the establishment was profiteering was profiteering from the drug trade. Was this a matter of policy?

Derek Sells  21:37

Well, yeah, I mean, you you raise a lot of a lot of important points in your question. And, you know, one of them has to do with whether or not there were governments around the world that were involved in the drug trade. I honestly haven’t studied that, that issue enough. To know, know that. There’s been some writing about it. There’s been, you know, some talk about it. I know, there was someone named Freeway, Rick Ross, who described basically working with the CIA and being given basically carte blanche to go and engage with other countries to bring drugs into the African American community. So I said, I haven’t studied it enough to know how accurate this is. But certainly, there’s anecdotal evidence provided by him, that there was some type of a very large, intergovernmental conspiracy to bring drugs into the African American community. I can’t speak about Ronald Reagan, when he was president. And he declared a war on drugs. And when I talked about the first lady who said, just say no to drugs. Well, that was Ronald Reagan’s wife, Nancy Reagan, who had said that, and back in the early 80s, when Ronald Reagan was president, up until I guess it was 1988. There was targeting of African Americans. And that even, that went even into the Clinton years, it went even beyond the Clinton years, is this been a targeting of African American men, particularly unfair targeting of African American men.

And in the drug, this so called drug war, you could see it in the way that that the crime bill, the crime bills that were written back then for the, for the federal violations of drugs, the way that they did the sentencing guidelines. Back then, there was a time where cocaine was punished differently. Not because it was a different drug. But because if the cocaine was in a crack form, which is something that was very prevalent in the African American community, they got punished almost 10 times as much as those who possessed cocaine in its powdered form. And that was not by, that was not by accident. It was done because politicians knew that with regard to the crack epidemic, that that was taking place, that African Americans disproportionately used crack cocaine, crack cocaine, and it was a, it was a blight on their community. And it was clearly a racial, racially motivated, attack.

Because you can, you can just compare it to what’s happening now, today, if you look at what’s happening, how how Oxycontin is being looked at this this heroin epidemic that’s taking place now, which in fact, involves disproportionately more Caucasian individuals in this country. It’s being treated like a disease. And people are not even being punished criminally for having Oxycontin. There’s, you know, there’s basically a war against the manufacturers, the pharmaceutical companies that are producing and getting all these mostly Caucasian individuals hooked on Oxycontin. So they’re not going out to the users today, because they’re mostly white. But back when there was a crack epidemic, the police were throwing African American men and women really in jail for much longer than those that use powder cocaine. So yes, you’re you’re absolutely right when you when you ask the question, did race, you know, where were African Americans targeted? They absolutely were. And it’s, it’s very clear, when you look at it from this standpoint.

Niloufer Bhagwat  27:06

Then, so, the so called war on drugs, which targeted African Americans, it fueled it resulted in more African Americans being handed over to private prisons, which is the prison military complex, prison industrial complex. There were more African American convicted, far more than in proportion to the total population.

Derek Sells  27:36

Yes, I mean, that’s, that is absolutely right. And I’m hopeful that that many of you have read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, which, which talks exactly about what you’ve mentioned, that the prison industrial complex, has, there’s a profit to be made on having people go to jail. It’s like the new Jim Crow, the new slavery, where people who are imprisoned, people who have lost their freedom, people who are in chains, African American, mainly are being used by big business to make money, almost in the same way that slave owners who owned African Americans and used them to till the fields made money. And so this is just a new form of slavery.

Niloufer Bhagwat  28:48

Were you, were you able to proceed against the police officer?

Derek Sells  28:56

Yes. Yes, we were able to bring a lawsuit against the officers for excessive use of force, racial profiling. And ultimately, we were able to resolve the case in a way that we were able to provide for for Patrick’s two daughters. We settled his case, I think the the value of the settlement because we got like these structured settlements, for the two, for his two daughters. So the value was was several million dollars, ultimately, for his daughters. And so they’ve been they’ve been set up. But there was no criminal prosecution for these officers. And for that, I think it’s just It was just a reflection of how police were able to get away with killing black men with impunity, you know, there was no justification whatsoever. For Patrick Dorismond being shot and killed. He had no weapon. He had done nothing wrong. He told, you know, who he believed to be drug dealers to get away from him. He was shot and killed, and no one, no one had charges brought against them, no one went to jail. And that’s a crying shame.

Niloufer Bhagwat  30:40

Thank you attorney Sells. Thank you.

Ria Julien  30:47

I would just like to call time. We’re at the 30 minute mark, there’s 20 minutes left for the hearing.

Hina Jilani  30:53

I have a question for attorney Sells. I’m so glad that my colleague, Commissioner Bhagwat has asked you questions about policy. But this is a case that we are looking at which, which is from from a certain period, I just want you to ask, I wanted to ask you, there is an apparent indication, in this particular case of the times that you’re telling us about, the Mayor Giuliani and his policies that this, that the war on drugs, and even the criminal response instructions, crime response instructions of the NYPD were really driven by a maybe a policy of, of targeting African Americans. Do you think there is a difference now? Is there something you can point out relative to that period in in what you see in the cases that we are examining during this, these hearings? So can we can we in some ways, have a better understanding of the policy at that time in clearer words from you? And also, what do you think is the is the situation now? And the other question that I would ask you it relates to the last answer that you have given with regard to the impunity for these three officers. And I would like to understand how is it possible that a death occurs at the hands of the police, and there is no prosecution? Or any inquiry that the police that the police department made into this case? Because what – in the systems that I’m familiar with this could not happen even if the police officers were innocent of any crime in the eyes of the police? There is always an inquiry in this type of a killing.

Derek Sells  33:04

Correct, and there was an inquiry here too, Commissioner. So this just to give you background on that, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office looked into this matter, they investigated this matter. But, but unfortunately, back in 2000, March of 2000, when this occurred, we didn’t have the same type of cell phone cameras. The area along Eighth Avenue and 38th Street, did not have the the cameras that they do now, with, and police certainly back then did not wear, did not wear body cams. Today, if the same shooting had happened, I think there might be a different result only because it would have been captured on on video. And video is obviously a very powerful tool that prosecutors can use to to find someone and prove that someone acted illegally. But unfortunately, back then it was a situation where when the police said something happened, that they were believed.

And the officer Vasquez was the one who shot Patrick Dorismond when he claimed that Patrick Dorismond had grabbed at his gun. And as a result, the gun discharged and shot Patrick in the chest almost like it was an accident. Interestingly enough, though, one of the main tests that can be used to show whether or not Patrick actually did grab Vasquez’s gun somehow got lost. So there’s a gunpowder residue test that had been performed on Patrick Dorismond’s hands. And the way gunpowder residue works is that if a part of a person’s body or clothing was in close proximity to the gun, that discharged gunpowder that escapes when the, when the gun is fired, will end up on either a person’s clothing or a person’s hands or whatever body part happened to be near the discharge of the weapon. And so this gunpowder residue test that was done on Patrick Dorismond’s hands, which would have shown whether or not Patrick’s hands were near the gun when it was fired, we never got the result from it. It was taken. But somehow the test itself got lost. And it was not performed again. So that undermined any, any way to try and build a case against Vasquez. Or at least that’s what that’s what the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office concluded that they didn’t have enough proof to go forward with with a criminal prosecution against any of these officers, including Vasquez.

Hina Jilani  36:31

About the, about the policy issues, if you can give us some idea of whether there are circumstances that you have observed in subsequent periods about these killing of Afro American men or women by the police, or the use of excessive force in these cases? Does that indicate any, any change in circumstances that you can interpret as a change in policy?

Derek Sells  37:01

Well, the policies are one thing, Commissioner. Yeah, the NYPD has policies that are aimed at trying to preserve life, right. So if you look at the policies themselves, there’s not going to be a written policy saying, you know, go out and kill African American people, right? That’s not going to be in any kind of policy, but the way that the policies are applied, and the way that that they’re violated, has led to a disproportionate number of African American men and women being killed by police, who arguably are following these policies. One example that has gotten a lot of attention is the policy of how the NYPD handles emotionally disturbed persons in the city. So emotionally disturbed persons are individuals who are suffering from some type of a mental break, whether it’s a temporary one or whether it’s someone who’s mentally ill, and maybe didn’t take their medicine. There’s just a disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic individuals who end up dead in these encounters with police, despite the fact that there are policies on how police are supposed to handle these emotionally disturbed persons.

One of the things that police are supposed to do, for example, with an emotionally disturbed person who is isolated and contained and not presenting a danger to anyone is that you’re supposed to let that individual stay in that isolated and contained space. These policies came came about following a very infamous police shooting of Eleanor Bumpurs, who is a African American woman who was suffering from mental illness. She was extremely large. And she had, you know, some little knife with her, but she was clearly emotionally disturbed. She ended up being shot and killed by police. And following that there was such an outcry as to why they had to shoot and kill this woman who even though she had a knife, she really was in no position to be able to hurt anyone with it. They develop these policies. One of them was, as I said, you know, an isolated and contained EDP, someone who was in a room with a door closed or what have you, is the police just supposed to leave them in there and let them you know, come down, let them cool off or whatever is motivating them to act in an emotionally disturbed fashion, let it wear off.

And then when the person is calm, not, you know, not prone to, to violence, you know, that’s when you you take them out and you get them medical attention. But the way the that the police use this policy, even though they’re supposed to leave them isolated and contained, what what oftentimes happens is that the police will somehow decide that they need to open these doors, whether by, you know, pulling the door open or cutting a hole in the door. What they claim is that they’re going to do this, so that they can insert cameras, so that you could get a better view of the individual who’s on the other side. And oftentimes, when these, when these doors get opened, the emotionally disturbed person will charge the door, or somehow engage the police through the opening, at which point the police use force. And a number of people have been killed as a result of that. One of the one of the famous cases is this case, called Mohamed Bah, is an individual Mr. Bah was an individual who was a was, you know, African American. He was isolated and contained in his room. And there was a lieutenant who ordered that the door be open so that they could insert a camera. When the door was open, Mr. Bah charged the door. And eventually, the police ended up shooting him to death.

Now, at the time, the chief of the department, Chief Banks, wrote a memo to the police commissioner at the time, and this happened in 2012, detailing why this shouldn’t have happened. And basically he said that the door should never have been breached. That there’s a history of the police opening doors in these situations, forcing engage, engagements with these emotionally disturbed people. And they end up dead. He warned the police about this. And but notwithstanding this warning, and this memo was written in 2014.

Just the next year, there was an individual, Anthony Paul, who happens to be my client now, who was an emotionally disturbed person that was isolated and contained in his room. The police came in, they cut a hole through the door in the process of cutting a hole through the door in order to insert a camera. The saw cut Mr. Paul 32 times. He had been guarding the door up until that point, he was banging on the door. When the police put like a little star hole in the door, Mr. Paul put his face in the hole and was trying to spit at the police. They put a saw through that hole cut Mr. Paul, he started bleeding out and the police saw the blood, so then they had to go in. So they went in and they used two tasers against them in violation of the police’s own policies. Again, these are policies they’re not supposed to use to tasers against an individual at the same time, but they did. And then they tased him a combined total of 13 times. Even though there are policies that say you’re only allowed to tase someone three times, at most. He was tasered 13 times. And he ended up at the hospital just a few minutes later dead. And so Mr. Paul was an African American man. And so these things happen notwithstanding the policies that are in place. I can assure you that if Mr. Paul was an emotionally disturbed person, isolated and contained in some ritzy building, that the police would have a much different reaction. But because Mr. Paul was isolated and contained in a three-quarter house, which is essentially a halfway house with a little bit more freedom in the Bronx, the police saw fit to violate their own policies with impunity, as none of these officers were found to have violated any policies, notwithstanding the fact that they did. And that’s a whole other story. Because even though they violated the policies that existed at the time, the police retroactively changed the policies. And when they retroactively change the policies as it related to taser use, they said, okay, since we changed the policies, we’re not going to punish these officers for violating them. Thank you.

Hina Jilani  45:36

I have no further questions.

Ria Julien  45:40

You have five minutes left in this hearing,

Niloufer Bhagwat  46:04

Can I be heard?

Derek Sells  46:06

You can be heard now I can hear you now.

Niloufer Bhagwat  46:12

This demonization, which has taken place of the African American, has it been used as a policy of divide and rule over the citizens of the United States of America by giving some the impression that they are privileged? That’s my first question. And second. The media which is responsible for the demonization is controlled by monopoly corporations?

Derek Sells  46:59

Yeah, you raise two very important questions. The demonization has been gone, you know, as long as I can recall, and I’m sure even, you know, before me, you know, Black men, Hispanic men, people of color in general, have been demonized. Not necessarily, because they’ve done anything wrong. But just because of the color of their skin. I mean, the history of slavery in this country speaks volumes about how African Americans were viewed as less than people. Our own United States Constitution did not view in its original form, at least, African Americans as full people.

We weren’t even considered a whole human being by the Constitution, the document that put this country together. And so throughout history, this demonization has taken place. I just mentioned the case of Anthony Paul, the individual who I represent now, that was tasered and all the things. He was demonized by the then police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who said that, that Mr. Paul, was was high on K2 at a time that that the police did what they did. And it was, and it was K2 that, that was was responsible for his death. When he said those words, Mr. Paul had already undergone a toxicology screen, a toxicology screen that was performed by a specialized lab that could detect synthetic marijuana, which is K2. That lab came back and said that Mr. Paul did not have K2 in his system, said none detected. That test was known to the police, when the commissioner at the time said that he was high on K2. So this demonization is a policy. It’s it’s gone on long before me, and I’m sure it will exist long after me. But it’s something that it’s important to understand. And you raised the question about the media. Is the media somehow responsible? Absolutely. Because the media just takes what they’re given. And unfortunately, we don’t have enough writers, enough correspondents who are willing to dig deep and get their own facts, as opposed to just take the information that they’re given. And so that needs to change.

Ria Julien  50:23

Thank you, Mr. Sells. there any questions from the commissioners before the close of this hearing? That concludes the hearing of the case of Patrick Dorismond. We will now have a short break. Hearings will resume on the hour with the case of Patrick Warren Sr. Thank you very much.