Father of slain cop files $90M suit against WC

The father of a slain Mount Vernon police officer announced Tuesday that he is seeking damages to the tune of $90 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against Westchester County.

In his lawsuit, Stanley Ridley claims county officials tried to cover up Christopher Ridley's death by concealing the evidence, including autopsy reports and ballistics information, and surveillance footage from at least four cameras. In January of 2008, the 23-year-old Christopher Ridley was off duty and in plain clothes when he tried to break up a fight outside the county office building.

According to an investigation, Ridley's gun fired and fell to the ground during the scuffle. That's when it is alleged that four county police officers fired at Ridley after he did not respond to orders to put down the gun. He also never identified himself as a cop, investigators say.

Ridley's family and their attorney, Jonathan Lovett, claim the story is a cover-up created by county officials. The suit also claims that the one white county officer involved in the incident, Frank Oliveri, put his gun to Ridley's head and fired at point-blank range after Ridley had already been shot by the other officers.

After watching dozens of videotapes and listening to more than 60 witnesses, a grand jury cleared the four officers of any wrongdoing. "I want all people involved brought to justice," Stanley Ridley says. "My son did not have to die that way."

The lawsuit says the killing was "a self-evidently racist murder." It claims the district attorney decided she would rather cover it up than prosecute it, so she directed Medical Examiner Millard Hyland to keep his report secret. Other parties named in the lawsuit include the four county officers involved in the incident, Westchester County Police Commissioner Thomas Belfiore and Westchester County Executive Andy Spano.

"We're going to get an autopsy report, an unredacted videotape, and we're going to show the world the truth," Lovett says.

Spano insists no effort was made to meddle in the investigation of Ridley's shooting, and all evidence is available to the family of the slain officer.

"This is a tragedy, and a tragedy that's being used for God knows what reason by the individuals involved," Spano says.

Damon Jones, of the National Black Police Officers' Association, says the Ridleys' lawsuit is not unfounded.

"[The] Westchester County justice system needs an enema," he says.

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