By Cherlynn Low for Northattan
After Inwood resident John Collado was shot and killed by a plainclothes police officer last year when he intervened in what turned out to be a drug bust along Post Avenue, his family said he was just trying to help a man he knew when he stepped in the fight.
Police reports of the incident said the plainclothes detective was in the process of arresting Collado’s neighbor Rangel Batista, 23, who appeared to be involved in a drug transaction, when Collado, 43, grabbed the detective from behind and placed
him in a chokehold. The detective, after struggling with the two men, fired one round from his weapon, striking Collado in the abdomen. He died from his injury hours later.
In March this year, a grand jury declined to indict the detective who shot Collado, James Connelly. That left Collado’s family enraged and devastated.
“We believe that the DA didn’t present a case that questioned the criminally negligent homicide aspect,” said Joseph Wright, Collado’s brother-in-law, “And the grand jury, without that information, decided not to indict.”
The family is frustrated at what they believe to be the shirking of responsibility on the part of the police department.
“Someone who was trying to do the right thing was killed by a cop,” said Wright, “Their immediate reaction should have been, ‘This guy took a huge risk and we are sorry that it led to John’s death.’ But that’s not their story, that’s not how they’ve approached it.”
The family believes that if Collado had known Connelly was an officer, he would not have interfered and would not have lost his life.
Wright believes that Connelly placed himself and others at risk when he decided to operate without backup. “Once something starts, you’re not in a position where you can clearly make yourself understood. So you don’t do it without backup or without a uniform. And this is what the guy did.”
But police say Connelly was not operating alone. “He definitely had support in the field on that particular day,” said executive officer of the 34th Precinct Capt Ernest Morales, “It was an ongoing investigation. Unfortunately, an incident took place that wasn’t foreseen.”
Collado’s family also disputes police reports that Collado had Connelly in a chokehold.
Collado’s niece Banays Taveras, who was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to leave the scene of the incident last year, said it was impossible that Collado could have done that. Taveras said that Collado had a spinal cord stimulator implanted in his back. As a result, she said, “He literally couldn’t do the things they said that he did.”
The family held a memorial service for Collado on the anniversary of his death last month at La Puerta Estrecha, and more than 50 people gathered to show their support.
The initially intimate and supportive atmosphere grew tense when two police officials showed up.
Capt. Ernest Morales gave a brief speech in Spanish, expressing his support for the family.
“As a representative of the police department, I want to be here to support their cause and to remind them that the community and the police department share the same goal, and that’s the safety and security of our community,” he said later in an interview.
But ”the community” did not take well to his presence.
“In the next year, hopefully to be given an apology, to be given a reason, when a police officer decides to step beyond that line to serve and protect, and become a criminal themselves,” she said to a standing ovation.
Collado, a former porter and bellman at the Essex House hotel, left behind five
children, including a 3-year-old son, and a grandson.
The family is now pursuing a civil lawsuit against Connelly, the NYPD and the city, and hopes to get a federal criminal investigation into Collado’s death