Wayne Isaacs, a New York police officer who shot and killed a man in Brooklyn during a traffic dispute while off-duty, was found not guilty Monday on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.
The case was the first time that the New York Attorney General’s Office prosecuted a case involving a police shooting of an unarmed civilian since 2015, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to give the office the authority to prosecute and investigate such cases.
Isaacs shot and killed Delrawn Small in the early morning hours of July 4, 2016; prosecutors argued that Isaacs cut Small’s vehicle off in traffic and that Isaacs fired three rounds into Small shortly after he approached Isaacs’ vehicle.
However, attorneys for Isaacs, who was in plainclothes at the time, argued that the officer feared for his safety and fired at Small in self-defense. Isaacs also denied that he cut Small off in traffic.
The jury of seven women and five men handed up the verdict after more than two weeks of trial.
Worth, Longworth & London attorneys Stephen Worth and Michael Martinez appeared for Isaacs.
In an interview, Worth said the evidence in the case “clearly showed” that his client was attacked and that he had “no option but to defend himself.”
Worth said the outcome of the Isaacs case may affect how the attorney general’s office approaches future police-shooting cases.
“You can’t pick cases on the basis of a headline, simply because an officer shot an ‘unarmed man,’” Worth said. “The justification in the case was clear.”
Assistant Attorneys General Jose Nieves and Joshua Gradinger prosecuted the case.
In a brief statement, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he was disappointed by the jury’s verdict, but said his office would “continue to investigate these cases without fear or favor and follow the facts wherever they may lead.”
Following the verdict, Small’s brother and sister, Victor Dempsey and Victoria Davis, issued a statement calling on city leaders to fire Isaacs from the New York City Police Department and saying the fact that Isaacs is a black man “does not diminish the systemic issues of racialized fear and the criminalization of blackness that allow a jury to consider the killing of an unarmed black man by a police officer as justified.”