Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mother tries to prevent a case from going cold

From the NY Times:

Mr. Agard told the police that he had taken the subway to Astoria to visit a friend and had been approached by three strangers, Hispanic or white men, peddling marijuana. One pulled out a fake gun, he said; he hit that man and was stabbed by another.

Only later would the police hear that Mr. Agard had actually been driven to Astoria — by a friend with a criminal record, the one who had called him that evening.

“He lived for a very long time, and you know what? He lied to us,” Lieutenant Keough said. “That doesn’t make me not want to solve the case, but it doesn’t make it easier.”

When resentment of the police is widespread, as it is among young black men, there is social pressure not to cooperate, law enforcement experts say. Victims also fear retaliation for “snitching,” Lieutenant Keough said.

“If anything comes out of this,” he said, “I hope victims learn: You never know when you’re going to die, so you might want to cooperate while you can.”

Mr. Agard eventually went home, but not for long. A high fever struck. Back in the hospital, he died on Sept. 27, 2008.

On Nov. 7, the police say they put out Crime Stoppers fliers offering a reward for information. Ms. Guerra thinks if her son had been white, or had died on Fifth Avenue, the fliers would have gone up sooner. (Sometimes she even doubts they were ever posted, since the police only asked for his picture a year later.)

On Dec. 16, Ms. Guerra brought a female friend of her son’s to the station house. Ms. Guerra had told the police that a friend had picked up her son that night, but she did not know his name. The female friend identified him from police photos.

Now the police had a lead. But they did not act right away, and soon it was too late. Four days later the friend — Ms. Guerra asked that he not be identified for her safety — was shot to death. The police eventually linked that killing to an unrelated criminal scheme involving cars.

On Dec. 26, the detectives alerted the police to look for the man’s associates, to see if they knew anything, even gossip, about Mr. Agard’s death.

Then the record goes fallow. The file shows that on April 22, 2009, the police questioned people arrested for selling marijuana near the spot where Mr. Agard died. Then, for five months, nothing.

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