Ousmane Zango, 43, was shot four times after a winding chase through the hallways of a storage facility, where he repaired sculptures and drums imported from Africa, police and acquaintances said.
|Investigation is being conducted|
regarding Zango's death
The police officer had been guarding counterfeit merchandise down the hall.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the Thursday afternoon shooting came after a task force raided two units in the massive 5,000-room storage building. The raid was part of an investigation into street sales of counterfeit compact discs.
Zango had no connection to the counterfeiting operation and no criminal record, Kelly said.
It was unclear why the unidentified officer began to chase Zango, a father of two, from the West African nation of Burkina Faso.
According to supervisors, the officer claimed after the shooting "he tried to take my gun. I had to shoot him." The officer also described shoving and pushing between the two men, Kelly said.
Zango was running towards a cramped, improvised studio that he kept in the facility, police and acquaintances said.
He worked there seven days a week, repairing imported artwork sold wholesale to dealers in an extensive, informal African art market.
A devout Muslim, Zango left for the United States almost two years ago and lived with four roommates in a Harlem studio apartment.
Like many of the roughly 1,000 immigrants from Burkina Faso living in the New York area, he regularly sent money to his family back home, which included daughters ages 3 and 4, they said.
"He was a very nice, caring and lovely guy," said a friend who only wanted to be known as Sheikh. "He was planning to go back home soon."
|New York Police expect public |
Police recovered Zango's mobile phone and a ring from the series of hallways where the chase occurred.
An autopsy determined Zango was shot once in the chest, once in the abdomen and once in the upper back. He also suffered a graze wound to his right arm. A single bullet was recovered from his body.
Civil rights' activist and Democratic presidential candidate, Al Sharpton, denounced the shooting.
“Something does not smell right about this and something clearly must be dealt with,” he said. “It seems that we are beginning to see a pattern of police misconduct reminiscent of some of the days we thought we put behind us.”
The department’s Internal Affaires Bureau – which investigates internal police matters and possible wrongdoing - is investigating the shooting.
This latest shooting has brought back memories of the death of African immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was shot and killed by four white officers, who said they mistook his wallet for a weapon. Police officers fired 41 bullets at Diallo hitting him 19 times.
It was a public relations nightmare for the police department and mayor at-the-time, Rudolph Guilianni.
The officers were cleared of murder and other charges in a criminal trial in 2000. But the case inflamed racial tensions in New York city.