BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — Debuting the state’s newly minted special-prosecution team for crimes committed by police, an assistant attorney general told jurors on Monday about the Brooklyn man shot to death by an off-duty officer on July 4, 2016.
“This case involves the brutal murder of an unarmed man,” prosecutor Jose Nieves said in emotional opening arguments for the landmark case.
Wayne Isaacs had just three years under his belt at the 79th Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant when he was charged last year with second-degree murder and manslaughter for the shooting of Delrawn Small.
Prosecutors say Small was driving home from a family barbecue with his girlfriend and children when he crossed paths with Isaacs, driving in plainclothes that night after completing an eight-hour tour.
“Mr. Small was startled about being cut off by defendant without any warning,” Nieves told the jury.
As documented by surveillance video, Small got out of his car and approached Isaacs at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bradford Street.
Nieves emphasized that there is no dispute that Small was unarmed when Isaacs shot him three times.
“In fact, ladies and gentlemen, he had absolutely nothing in his hands,” the prosecutor said.
Insisting that his client behaved professionally, however, defense attorney Stephen Worth told the jury that Small was drunk and belligerent.
“He’s a menace,” Worth said of Small. “He’s angry. He’s intoxicated.”
Prosecutors concede that Small had three drinks at the barbecue — far too little, they say, to have intoxicated the the 6-foot-1, 270-pound man.
After the shootings, Isaacs called 911 and claimed that Small had assaulted him.
Nieves told the jury that this phone call shows the officer’s callous disregard for the life he had just taken.
“The defendant walked out of his car to coldly walk by Mr. Small’s body and barely even looked at it,” the prosecutor said.
Worth on the other hand defended the officer’s seeming lack of remorse.
“Maybe we can forgive him for not having a lot of compassion for the man who just assaulted him,” Worth said.
Small’s sister, Victoria Davis, became emotional during the defense’s opening statement. She spoke about her anguish at a press conference after making an early exit from the courtroom.
“I believe that they’re painting a picture as propaganda to divert attention from what the real story is, and what the real story is is that Delrawn was an unarmed man, a father of three, a loving and kind man, who was killed unjustly by Wayne Isaacs,” Davis told reporters.
Prosecutors deny that Small attacked Isaacs, or even knew that he was an officer at the time.
Shortly before lunch recess, prosecutors introduced six surveillance videos from local businesses, which they believe will prove that the altercation never turned physical.
NYPD Detective Rachel Crawford, who headed the crime scene unit in the case, kicked off witness testimony by attesting to the authenticity of the videos.
Small’s girlfriend, Zaquanna Albert, is also expected to testify this afternoon.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the special prosecutor title in 2015 in the backdrop of massive demonstration by the Black Lives Matter movement. In demanding such authority Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the state needed to address the perception that local prosecutors could not be trusted to hold accountable the police departments that they work with.