NEWARK, N.J. -- The lawyer for a police officer who officials said shot and killed a Guardian Angel said Thursday the cop fired because he believed his partner was in danger. The Guardian Angels said the shooting was 'cold murder in the streets.'
Attorney Anthony Fusco said his client, Officer Milton Medina, shot and killed Frank Melvin, 27, the father of two children and brother of a Newark police officer, in a what Fusco said was a case of mistaken identity. Fusco said Medina knew Melvin.
Melvin, a security guard, was shot Wednesday night as he led a patrol in a Newark senior citizens complex. He was the first Guardian Angel killed while on duty.
Newark police said Medina was responding to a report of a burglary and shot Melvin because he believed his partner was in danger. They said Medina did not know it was Melvin when he fired.
However, Curtis Sliwa, leader of the Guardian Angels, claimed a police sergeant who witnesses said carried badge number 891, had shot Melvin from a distance of 10 feet for 'no apparent reason.' Sliwa claimed Medina arrived at the scene after the shooting.
'The police officer freaked out,' Sliwa told a news conference on the steps of Newark City Hall. 'He didn't even say anything like 'freeze.' It was a cold murder in the street.'
Sliwa charged the police department was blaming the shooting on an Hispanic officer while witnesses claimed the officer who was responsible for the shooting was white. He accused the Newark police department of a deliberate coverup.
Sliwa said that Medina, who is Hispanic, is 'being made to take the rap' because it would soften the racial impact in the predominantly black city.
But Fusco insisted Medina had fired the fatal shot. 'My client is heartbroken and in a state of shock,' he said.
Fusco said badge 891 belonged to an officer named Donald J. Kars, who was the first to arrive at the body and had his gun drawn.
'Another officer arrived at the scene just while the shooting took place and was the first person up to the body. He had his gun drawn because he didn't know what the hell was going on,' Fusco said.
'The only weapon that was proved to have been fired was the weapon of my client,' said Anthony Fusco. Fusco said the Angels were confused by the early appearance of the other officer.
'The man's weapon (Kars' gun) was confiscated by the police department, and it was proved no shots were fired from that gun,' the attorney added.
The attorney said Medina was late arriving at the scene because he was stuck on the roof, leading Angels to believe he had not been present during the shooting.
'My man was on the roof,' Fusco said. 'He could not jump down. It was minutes after the shooting that a patrol car pulled up to the side of the building so he could jump down to the roof' (of the car and from the car's roof to the street).
Medina had fired, Fusco said, because he believed Melvin was the suspect in the burglary report he was responding to and said it had appeared that the Angels following Melvin were actually chasing him.
Authorities also denied the Angel's version of the shooting. A police source confirmed Kars was at the scene and said officials were trying to determine at what point he arrived. Police also have recovered the slug from the body and are conducting ballistics tests.
Authorities denied the Angel's version of the shooting.
At a morning news conference, Police Director Hubert Williams said Medina had responded with his partner Angel Ramos to a report of a burglary at the People's Tavern.
Williams said Melvin did not heed two shouted warnings from Medina, who was standing on the roof of the tavern.
Police said Medina heard a whistle, which he thought was a police whistle, and spotted a young man followed by several others running towards Ramos.
Authorities said the whistle was blown by one of the Angels.
'The officer ... ran to the edge of the building, where he observed a young man running toward his partner,' Williams said. 'The officer (Medina) states that he ordered the subject to halt. The subject continued toward his partner. The officer then fired one shot from his service revolver, which apparently struck the young man in the chest area.'
Melvin was pronounced dead at College Hospital. The Angels charged that Melvin had not been taken to the closest hospital, but Williams said police took all shooting victims to College because the emergency room had 'the best trauma team in the United States.'
'Upon arriving on the scene, he (Medina) said, 'This is our man, what did they do to them,'' Miss Candelaria said.
Ms. Candelaria also charged that no one had shouted a warning.