Next time you hear Mayor Bill de Blasio or NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill babbling about neighborhood policing, or that there were fewer than 300 homicides in NYC last year, someone might remind them of poor Mario Sanabria.
Acting on inaccurate information from an informant that Sanabria’s nephew had a gun and was dealing drugs out of Sanabria’s Bronx apartment, detectives from the Emergency Service Unit broke down his door at 4 a.m. on Dec. 5. They found neither a gun nor the nephew, who had moved out months before. They did find the nephew’s 92-year-old father, Natalio Conde, and 69-year-old Sanabria, who cared for the older man in return for room and board.
Then-Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan, now chief of department, said then that Sanabria, a Honduran immigrant who spoke no English, refused to drop a machete he was holding. One of the ESU detectives fatally shot him in the chest.
NYPD Confidential is not criticizing that detective or others in the raid. As detectives union head Michael Palladino wrote in an email, “We had a legitimate search warrant and Emergency Service detectives followed their search warrant entry training to the letter . . . We’re not looking to kill anyone but I don’t want to see our people seriously injured or killed either.”
But let’s look at this another way. Police bust down your door in the middle of the night. You wonder what’s going on, and you grab the first thing you find — a machete. As Sanabria’s lawyer, Robert Vilensky, put it, “Five police officers can’t figure out a better way to take down a guy who is 69 years old and all of 5-foot-4 and 160 without shooting him in the chest?”
Even worse, there has been no indignation or an apology from either de Blasio or O’Neill, who said only that the NYPD and Bronx DA are looking into it. Contrast that with the outrage over the 2014 “chokehold” death of Eric Garner. Or with O’Neill and de Blasio’s statements after the 2016 fatal police shooting of Deborah Danner, an emotionally disturbed black woman, after cops said she swung a bat at a sergeant.
Why is a frightened man holding a machete in his dark apartment different from a disturbed woman who swung a bat at a sergeant? Probably because Sanabria, a poor Honduran immigrant, has no political constituency.