New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz Press Statement On The Shooting Of Fermin Arzu

Ruben Diaz

May 25, 2007

I would like to begin this meeting by expressing my deepest sympathy to Mr. Fermin Arzu’s fiancée, Ms. Thomasa Sabio, to his children, to his relatives, to his friends, to his neighbors, and to all of those who knew and loved him.

I would also like to express my thanks to the family members, to the elected officials who have joined us, to the ministers, to the Honduran Consul General Javier Hernández, to Michael Hardy, the family lawyer, to the United Caribbean Congress and to all of you present today.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing some very difficult problems of excessive force by many police officers who have sworn to protect our community. The recent shooting of Mr. Fermin Arzu is the last of many other killings and abuses of members of our community at the hands of police officers

I have called this press conference to discuss how these problems have grown, to show our support for the victims’ families and to demand an immediate and strong action from the Mayor of the City of New York and the Police Commissioner.

This past Friday night, near midnight, Mr. Fermin Arzu, a Honduran resident who resides in my Senatorial district crashed his minivan into a parked car on Hewitt Place and Westchester Avenue.

According to police reports, after some verbal argument, Mr. Arzu began to drive away, Police Officer Lora fired his 9-millimeter Glock handgun five times into Mr. Arzu’s car. Mr. Arzu’s car continued one block, crashed into a building and went on fire. The medical examiner ruled on Saturday that Mr. Arzu was killed by a single shot to his heart and a lung. Mr. Arzu was unarmed.

This is the last of many incidents that have taken place in the past few years. Here are some recent incidents of police brutality toward our community. Let me remind you that:

On March 14, 2007, Reverend Indalecio del Valle, a Pentecostal minister was pulled out of his car in The Bronx, thrown to the ground, handcuffed, beaten and kicked in a case of mistaken identity. Reverend Del Valle was unarmed. He happens to be here today with his attorney, Michael Laminsofs.

On November 25, 2006, five undercover New York City Police Officers shot 50 bullets into a car in Queens killing Sean Bell who was 23-years old, and wounding two of his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. They were all unarmed.

On January 24, 2004, 19-year old man, Timothy Stansbury was killed from one single bullet into his chest by a New York City Police Officer in Brooklyn. Mr. Stansbury was unarmed.

On February 4, 1999, 23-year old Amadou Diallo, was killed by 4 New York City Police Officers in The Bronx who shot 41 bullets and hit him with 19. Mr. Diallo was unarmed.

On August 9, 1997, 30-year old Abner Louima was brutalized while under arrest by New York City Police Officers in Brooklyn’s 70th precinct. Mr. Louima was unarmed.

On December 22, 2004, 29-year old security guard, Anthony Baez, killed by a Police Officer in The Bronx. Mr. Baez was unarmed.

So ladies and gentlemen, what is the common denominator with all of these victims and all of these shootings?

First, they all were unarmed. No weapons – unarmed.

Secondly, they were all black and Hispanic.

So, do we need to say anything more here? Do we have anything to add? Do we have reason to be outraged? Do we need more proof about what is going on in our community?

How many more killings of black and Hispanic unarmed people do we need to have before our community gets treated the way other communities get treated?