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Black Cop Mistaken As Suspect Shot

January 28, 2000

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A black off-duty policeman was mistaken for a suspect and shot to death by two fellow officers responding to a fight at a diner early Friday.

Cornel Young Jr., dressed in street clothes, saw a man confronting the two officers outside the restaurant and rushed to help them with his gun drawn, Police Chief Urbano Prignano said.

The officers ordered Young to drop his weapon, and when he didn’t, they fired, Prignano said. Young, the 29-year-old son of the highest-ranking black member of the Providence police department, died at a hospital.

Police would not identify the officers responsible, disclose their race or say whether they face any charges.

The man who originally confronted the on-duty officers, Aldrin Diaz, 29, was charged with murder.

The shooting comes at a sensitive time for relations between minorities and police.

This week, about 75 people representing civil rights groups, churches and black advocacy groups asked Rhode Island lawmakers to approve a two-year review of traffic stops to determine whether state troopers engage in racial profiling.

On Thursday, Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse called on departments to expressly forbid racial profiling.

Whitehouse said a team of prosecutors has been assigned to investigate the shooting. He would not comment further.

Civil rights groups demanded an independent investigation.

``We need police officers, and when they die in the line of duty it’s a tragedy to all people, but when we lose a minority police officer it’s more devastating to the minority community,″ said Clifford Monteiro, a former Providence policeman and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Providence.

Mayor Vincent Cianci said he does not believe race was a factor. He also said one of the officers had been with the force for a short time.

``I don’t think there was any racial overtones that I could see at this particular time,″ he said. ``The tragedy is we have two officers who certainly in my opinion didn’t intentionally mean to kill a brother officer.″

Young’s father, Maj. Cornel Young, is commander of Providence’s community police division. An officer guarding the front door of his home said the family had no comment.

Thomas Horton, a friend of Young’s since childhood, said he believes race was a factor in the shooting.

``He’s always level-headed, always clear-minded, and he was just doing his job, and he got killed for doing his job,″ Horton said. ``I have a lot of friends on the force, there are lot of good officers there, but there are a lot of people that should be re-evaluated.″

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