The New York City court system must select its jury members from behind bars. Twelve decent, law-abiding, citizens would never have awarded $11 million to a heroin addict with a mile-long rap sheet.
But, had a similar jury done their civic duty, they wouldn’t have acquitted Lopez of vehicular assault against a police officer in the first place.
On February 1, 2006, Raoul Lopez was pulled over by Sgt. Phillipe Blanchard and his partner, Officer Zinos Konstantinides. Lopez was ordered to shut off the car, but he failed to comply. In fact, when Konstantinides leaned inside to grab the keys, Lopez hit the gas instead.
He started to drag Konstantinides, so Blanchard fired a single shot. The bullet struck Lopez’s spinal cord; at first, he was a quadriplegic. Maybe that created sympathy with the first asinine jury that acquitted him of vehicular assault charges.
The following year, Lopez filed a lawsuit against the city.
During the recent seven-day trial, Lopez admitted he was stopped and ordered to hand over a bag of drugs he had just purchased. But he claimed that he fumbled and dropped his fix. When he bent over to retrieve it, Blanchard shot him in the back of his innocent, defenseless neck.
And he got the jury to buy that. Because of course, police officers always shoot respectful and compliant people in the neck during routine traffic stops. It’s in their Standard Operating Procedures manual, right?
Lopez also claimed loss of income. This is rich – although not as rich as Lopez – since he was unemployed at the time of the incident.
His attorney, Brett Klein, issued this statement:
“Raoul Lopez was an unarmed motorist who was needlessly shot in the back of his neck during what the police described as a routine traffic stop…We are grateful that a Bronx jury has held the City accountable for this wrongful shooting.”
Needlessly shot? Wrongful shooting? Blanchard has a very different memory of the incident. He says he had no choice but to open fire in order to save his partner from being maimed or killed.
According to spokesman Nicholas Paolucci, the city stands by Blanchard’s account.
“The split-second response by an officer likely stopped this driver from dragging an officer to his death, a response we believe was justified under the circumstances. We strongly disagree with this verdict and are reviewing the city’s legal options.”
Konstantinides has since retired, but Blanchard is still serving his community…even the backstabbing, anti-cop members of the jury.