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NYC Police Death May Be Accidental

January 4, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ One of the four men shot to death by New York City police this week may have been slain accidentally, authorities said Friday.

Police believe John Lagattuta was shot Thursday by an officer trying to arrest him as he sat behind the wheel of a stolen minivan, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

The officer was apparently trying to open the driver’s door with his left hand and smash the driver’s window with a pistol in his right hand. The gun may have accidentally discharged, striking Lagattuta.

``That is certainly a distinct possibility,″ said Kelly, who cautioned that police had not interviewed the officer.

Three other men were shot by police Wednesday and Thursday. Kelly said those shootings appeared to be justified by the threatening actions of the suspects.

In one of those cases, an undercover detective shot and killed a 17-year-old holding a pellet gun to his partner’s left eye during a robbery sting. Kelly said the youth ambushed the detective in a stairwell of a Harlem apartment building, saying ``Give me the money. Give me the money.″

The youth, Anthony Newsome, was shot three times.

The detectives appear to have followed police procedure, as did officers who shot and killed two armed men in separate incidents in Brooklyn early Wednesday, Kelly said. The family of one of the victims, 19-year-old Jamal Nixon, said Friday that he was a victim of excessive force.

``Proper police procedure was not observed in the conduct of the officers involved,″ the statement said.

New York police officers fatally shot 12 people last year and 11 people in 2001, police department statistics show.

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