The mother of a murder victim demanded an apology Wednesday from Police Chief Neil B. Merritt for seeming to rejoice at her son's death last year, but she didn't get one.
Jean Portillo, mother of Emmanuel J. Boyer, said she heard a tape of Police Department radio and telephone traffic the night her son was fatally shot and was offended by what she heard.
The tape reportedly recorded a phone call by an officer at the police station to Merritt's home to report the shooting. Merritt was told who the victim was and inquired about a potential suspect. Told incorrectly that the shooter was Tyrone Jones, Merritt said, according to Portillo, "Yeah, get rid of two of them."
"I asked for a public apology," Portillo said during a Police Board meeting Wednesday. "That's the least they can do."
Merritt told Portillo that his remarks "were spontaneous, but a very genuine response to two individuals who were very well known to myself and other officers who were no longer going to be at large. I cannot apologize for what I felt at the time."
When he was killed on March 20, 2001, Boyer, 16, was free on bail awaiting sentencing on a reduced charge of attempted first-degree assault. He had pleaded guilty to a near-fatal attack on a man who was beaten in the head with a shovel and a brick on Sept. 29, 2000. The maximum sentence Boyer faced on the charge was 15 years in prison.
The most recent arrest of Jones, 33, was in July on sexual abuse charges. He had previously pleaded guilty to firing a gun at three men on Washington Street in September 1999, but was sentenced the following April to time served.
Portillo said the tape carried the voices of two other officers saying "Good" when they learned Boyer was the victim.
"Where are they any different than the gentleman who shot my son?" Portillo asked. "I have no faith in you people anymore. . . . Why are you carrying a badge if you can't serve or protect everybody?"
Portillo said the tape also contained a detective's voice saying, "Oh, my God," when he hears Boyer was shot.
Merritt said he resents the notion that because the victim and the man believed to have shot him were both black, his remarks were racially motivated. "Nothing at all hints at racial bias," he said.
"I resent very much that you made (the remark)," Portillo replied.
Police Board President James F. Gugliuzza said that the board will look into the matter further.
He said he heard about some things that were new to him, such as the officers saying "Good," but he said he was sure Merritt meant nothing racial by his remark on the phone.
"It was two individuals with long criminal histories," Gugliuzza said. "It was not because of any racism."
Merritt told Portillo: "It was unfortunate that you were made aware of the remark. The remark I made was a private remark between me and a police officer."
After the shooting, two carloads of people were reported speeding westbound away from Lockport. Niagara County sheriff's deputies pulled over the car containing the man who eventually pleaded guilty to the killing, Chad L. Penn of Niagara Falls, on Lockport Road in Wheatfield.
Penn, 28, was allowed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.
Merritt said crime scene videotapes show an officer "desperately calling" for medical help and talking to Boyer to try to keep him from lapsing into unconsciousness. Boyer was shot once in the chest when he got out of his car to have words with Penn on Elmwood Avenue.