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No charges against cop in Rockland police shooting

May 8, 2012 3:20:38 PM PDT
A Rockland County police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Haitian immigrant will not face murder charges, the district attorney announced Tuesday.

Herve Gilles was shot and killed by Rockland County officer John Roper during an altercation in Spring Valley in December.

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Tuesday that the grand jury found no crime had been committed in the incident, in which officers responded to complaints about an unruly patron at a bar on December 14 and found Gilles. A violent confrontation ensued, with Gilles reportedly grabbed Roper's nightstick and hitting and biting him.

"They wound up wrestling on the ground," Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica said. "From what our investigation has shown so far, and the officer fired two shots."

An initial police investigation that found the shooting justified led to an outpouring of protests from family and community members.

Gilles's sister acknowledges her brother was mentally ill, but says he was not violent.

"Anybody who knew Herve would tell you, he's always happy and making people laugh," Marie Elics said. "That's what he's known for, making people laugh."

His family members are unhappy with the grand jury finding and will seek a federal investigation, said family attorney Sanford Rubenstein. He said a lawsuit would be filed against Spring Valley and Roper.

"The grand jury relied too heavily on the officer's testimony," Rubenstein said. "We were told no independent witnesses came forward, so we feel we don't really know what happened."

"At the very least it's an issue of training," he added. "Roper knew Herve Gilles was a paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic, and he shouldn't have ended up dead."

Some in Spring Valley's large Haitian community alleged racial discrimination, and there have been several demonstrations demanding justice.

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