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Questions for the captain

November 26, 2004

It took Police Commissioner Ray Kelly less than 24 hours to declare that the January fatal shooting on a Brooklyn rooftop of Timothy Stansbury, an unarmed 19-year-old, by police officer Richard Neri did not appear to be justified.

It took Kelly 48 hours to announce that the fatal shooting Monday of Jose Feliciano, a homeless man with a record in Brooklyn's East New York section, by an unidentified police officer, was within department guidelines.

But a week after Capt. Richard Cole, the No. 2 man in Brooklyn South narcotics, shot and wounded an unarmed 15-year-old near Cole's home in Staten Island, Kelly has said nothing.

Sources say that both Chief of Department Joe Esposito and Cole's boss, Narcotics Chief Anthony Izzo, have visited the crime scene amid indications that the department - as a person familiar with police shootings put it - may be "circling the wagons to protect the captain."

The teen, who has a record, had vandalized a car near Cole's home when Cole chased and allegedly confronted him, firing two shots. One struck a parked van, the second struck the teen in the groin.

The teenager was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property, criminal mischief and resisting arrest.

Captains Endowment Association President John Driscoll told Newsdaythe day after the shooting that other neighbors had told police the teen had a gun and threatened to kill a neighbor whose car was damaged.

A top police official told reporters that as Cole chased the teen, that neighbor shouted to Cole that the teen was reaching in his jacket, presumably for a gun. No gun was found.

William Smith, a spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, said, "Our office is committed to doing a thorough investigation. It may take some time."

A person familiar with police shootings said: "They are claiming the shooting was not accidental. That the kid was causing a disturbance. That he wasn't liked by people in the area. That he threatened to kill a neighbor. That he may have had some altercation with the captain's wife right outside their house before the shooting. That the captain was quoted as saying the kid was reaching into his waistband. If he was [just] a cop, they'd be leading him away in handcuffs."

Where's Charlie? Charlie DeRienzo has gone from superintendent of the Port Authority police to the building superintendent of One Police Plaza.

As the head of the specially created Facilities ManagementDivision - which includes the Building Maintenance Section, the Plant Management Unit and the Headquarters Custodial section - Deputy Commissioner DeRienzo also has an apparently unofficial job.

He has called in all 50 people from his sub units to practice for the police commissioner's Christmas luncheon. They're practicing lip-synching "Here Comes Santa Claus."

Riddle in an enigma. While Kelly demeans his predecessor, Bernie Kerik, for awarding honorary police commissionerships to civilians, the question remains: How did Michael Stern, the Intrepid Foundation's nonagenarian chairman, obtain his honorary commissionership from Kelly? Kelly refuses to acknowledge he even gave Stern the award. Intrepid president Bill White, who is said to know the details, did not return a call to Newsday. Instead, Debbie Raskin of the Howard Rubenstein public relations agency, which represents the Intrepid, called to intervene, then stonewalled subsequent inquiries.

Incident probed. Nearly two months after this column reported the alleged beating of Aaron Wong, 22, a Staten Island black man, by James Mangone, a white retired cop, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan is looking into the incident, his spokesman said.

Wong and girlfriend Brooke Lopez allege he was beaten by Mangone - who says Wong was trespassing - then arrested by officer Young Yu of the 120th Precinct. Mangone went free. Wong and Lopez, who during the beating called 911, say two civilians were with Mangone - one had a gun, and the other, Yu allowed to handcuff Wong. Lopez said she was not questioned by Yu or the officers with him when Wong was arrested. Instead of being taken to the hospital to be treated for a broken jaw, he was put in a cell. Wong has filed a $10-million discrimination suit in federal court; the Police Department's Staten Island investigations unit is also looking into the matter.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.