- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2000

ALBANY, N.Y. Echoing their fellow defendants' accounts, two of the four New York City police officers on trial for killing an unarmed immigrant testified yesterday that the man appeared to draw a gun and take a "combat stance."

Kenneth Boss, 28, and Richard Murphy, 27, described a frantic search inside the vestibule of Amadou Diallo's Bronx apartment building for a gun the African immigrant never had.

Officer Boss told the jury hearing the four officers' second-degree murder trial that he was "destroyed" when he learned the black object in Mr. Diallo's right hand was a wallet.

"I kept praying the weapon would be in there, that it was somewhere," Officer Boss said.

The four white plainclothes officers had been searching the neighborhood for armed criminals on Feb. 4, 1999. They saw Mr. Diallo at the rear of the 5-by-7-foot vestibule with his right arm extended, Officer Boss said. He "was crouched like in a combat stance… . The same one I was taught in the police academy," he said.

Officer Boss said he saw Officer Edward McMellon fall back off Mr. Diallo's doorstep and thought his colleague had been shot. When the gunfire ended, Officer Boss said, he grabbed Officer McMellon and "started feeling his chest, going 'Where are you hit? Where are you hit?' … He said, 'I'm not hit.' "

The four officers fired 41 shots at Mr. Diallo, who was hit 19 times.

Officer Murphy, who fired four times, testified that he was certain Mr. Diallo was armed.

"There was not a doubt in my mind that he had a gun. I had a sick feeling in my stomach that I was going to be hit at any second. That's why I fired," he said.

Officer McMellon, 27, and the fourth defendant, Sean Carroll, 37, took the stand Monday to explain why they each fired 16 shots.

All four officers emphasized similar points: that it was dark; that Mr. Diallo ignored orders to halt for questioning; that he remained on his feet throughout the gunfire. Each officer denied shooting the victim after he was down.

The prosecution contends the officers never yelled a warning before cornering Mr. Diallo and opening fire. Autopsy findings supported the prosecutors' contention that several of the bullets hit Mr. Diallo while he was going down.

Family members and supporters of the officers sat in the Albany courtroom yesterday while the men testified. Many wore buttons reading: "Free the Bronx Four."

The trial was moved to Albany after the shooting sparked protests and allegations of widespread police abuse of minorities.

Testimony was expected to continue through the end of this week. If convicted, the four could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

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