When 14-year-old Christopher Duran left his Bronx home on Friday to go to school, he didn't know that a red-bandana-wearing gunman was waiting to pump him full of lead.
In a brutal ambush caught on surveillance video, Duran was shot four times and died while screaming for his mother. Though Duran already had five previous arrests on his record, no one could possibly blame such a young victim for his own tragic murder.
No one, except for three former New York Police Department officers who took to Facebook to call the 14-year-old a "piece of shit thug," a "piece of trash" and a "menace to the neighborhood."
Those hateful words come from the comments section of a public Facebook post by former police officer and current CNN contributor Thomas Verni, where what appears to be three former NYPD members smeared Duran's character and suggested the 14-year-old murder victim was somehow complicit. The posts can be seen below. The three men are Brian Charles, Joseph Gasparre and Andrew Blethen.
In a later comment, Blethen added that while the death was a "tragedy," there was no need to blow it out of proportion:
Gasparre had previously commented on another article about the death of unarmed black man Eric Garner during a 2014 arrest in Queens:
Based on their Facebook profile details, all three men appear to have been NYPD officers, and an NYPD representative confirmed to Mic that Joseph Gasparre and Andrew Blethen were the names of two former NYPD officers. Though Brian Charles was too common a name for the NYPD to confirm specifically, an Instagram account linked to Charles' Facebook profile features a photo showing the same man wearing an NYPD uniform in 2006.
Another post on Instagram identified the poster as Sgt. Brian McMenamin of the NYPD's Computer Training Unit, which the NYPD's website describes as a technical unit responsible for instructing other officers on "proper operation and usage of both standalone and online computer applications."
The NYPD did not respond to a followup inquiry regarding McMenamin's employment with the NYPD.
Only Gasparre responded when asked for comment:
While comments from a few individual ex-officers do not speak for the force as a whole and there's no indication of a link to any actual misconduct, they certainly seem emblematic of an attitude problem among some New York police officers.
After two officers were murdered in 2014 by a man angry over Garner's death, Patrolman's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch issued an outraged memo saying city Mayor Bill de Blasio's hands were "literally dripping with our blood." A sizable number of officers chose to turn their backs on de Blasio at one of the officers' funerals.
Shortly afterwards, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton appeared to concede there were bad apples in the department, promising to remove "the brutal, the corrupt, the racist, the incompetent" from duty.
The dehumanizing language used by the three commenters is also telling, considering the racial connotations of words like "thug." The NYPD's stop-and-frisk program was recently declared an unconstitutional form of racial profiling. Stereotyping in the NYPD is apparently so widespread that a Reuters poll of 25 active and former African-American NYPD officers found all but one had been racially profiled while off-duty.
But the most chilling aspect of the posts is the fact that each of these men, who at one time may have been charged with the protection of the public, do not seem to consider a 14-year-old boy who fell in with a bad crowd as possessing the same constitutional equality as other New Yorkers. Bad apples or not, this is yet another small piece of evidence that some police consider "thugs" as synonymous with less than human.