DA: Cop shooting of armed suspect justified
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A Nassau police officer was "entirely justified" when he shot and killed a suspected burglar last summer after the man climbed out a back window of his home and ran toward officers with a knife, a report released Tuesday by the Nassau district attorney concludes.
The 28-page report finds that Officer Shevach Berkovits had every reason to believe that deadly force was necessary when he shot Kurt Doerbecker, 23, of Point Lookout on Aug. 30, 2011.
"Doerbecker was a potentially violent individual, who was armed with a weapon, who had punched a patron at a nearby bar and then threatened to stab that patron, and who had menaced a homeowner with a sharp object in a home invasion," the report says.
Just before he was shot, Doerbecker had retreated into his home and refused to speak to police before eventually climbing out a back window and charging at officers in the dark, holding a 12-inch knife, the report says.
"Doerbecker held the knife over his head and charged at Officer Berkovits and, finally, Officer [Oscar] Walters," the report says. "As Doerbecker was running at Officer Berkovits, Berkovits fired two shots at Doerbecker. As Doerbecker veered toward and charged at Officer Walters, Officer Berkovits fired an additional shot. That bullet struck Doerbecker in the back of his head, killing him instantly."
The use of deadly force was "entirely justified," so the investigation is closed "and no criminal charges will be sought," the report concludes.
The slain suspect's father, Albert Doerbecker, said in an interview Tuesday the report is "not an investigation. It's a whitewash. My son was murdered. . . . He was running away when they shot him in the back of the head. It's kind of difficult to shoot someone in the back of the head when they're charging at you."
James Carver, head of Nassau's Police Benevolent Association, said the district attorney's investigation "confirmed that the shooting was proper and justified."
A Nassau police spokeswoman declined to comment. County Attorney John Ciampoli could not immediately be reached.
Doerbecker's parents have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the police response to Doerbecker's suspected involvement in a bar fight and home invasion was "grossly disproportionate" to what happened and ultimately led to their son's death.
The Doerbeckers' Manhattan attorney, John Cuti, issued a statement saying the family was "disappointed with the decision not to prosecute anyone" in the shooting.
"The family looks forward to discovering all the facts and to holding the police accountable in court," he said.
With Joseph Mallia