Police union to sue lawyer linked to Ridley case

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A Westchester County police union announced plans to file a lawsuit against Stanley Ridley's attorney, who made allegations that his client's son, a Mount Vernon cop, was shot execution-style by a white police officer.

Stanley Ridley and attorney Jonathan Lovett filed a $90 million federal lawsuit against Westchester County officials and the four police officers who shot Christopher Ridley last January in White Plains. At the time of the incident, Ridley was in plain clothes and struggling over a gun with an assault suspect. All four officers were later cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury.

Lovett's lawsuit claims Frank Oliveri, the only Caucasian police officer involved in the shooting, killed Ridley because he was black. The suit also accuses Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore and other county officials of conspiring to cover up the alleged bias crime.

"I would hope at some point Lovett will be held accountable by these outrageous allegations," says Mike Hagan, president of the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association.

White Plains attorney and commentator Mike Edelman, who saw the surveillance video of the incident obtained by News 12, says the shooting did not happen in the way that Lovett and Stanley Ridley portray it.

"There is nothing in that video that in any way backs up the allegations in lawsuit," Edelman says.

Edelman claims that Lovett is pursuing a political agenda shared by his other client, the controversial publisher of the Westchester Guardian Sam Zherka. Edelman says both men want to oust DiFiore, a Republican, and ensure that her Democratic challenger Tony Castro wins the primary.

"It's not about law, not about facts," he says. "It's about payback."

Zherka and Lovett have sued DiFiore over other issues in the past. In all, Lovett has filed 29 lawsuits against the county over the past nine years. Three of the cases were settled for a total of $348,000, 16 were dismissed by the county or withdrawn and 10 remain open.

Robert Castelli, an Iona College criminal justice professor, also does not support the allegations that race played a part in Ridley's death. He says based on his experience training officers in the use of deadly physical force, the four Westchester cops handled the situation properly.

"Whether that person is white, black, young, old, dressed well or dressed poorly," he says. "The fact of the matter is this individual has a loaded firearm, and they pose an immediate threat to those police officers."

Castelli says most likely it was Ridley's inexperience that cost him his life.

"He should identify himself to the individual he's trying to arrest and certainly for his own safety he needs to identify himself to any responding officers so that they recognize he's one of the good guys," Castelli says.

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