Framed?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 28, 2010

But that version of the incident is refuted by an eyewitness to the shooting who spoke to the Phoenix, and does not appear to fit the timing of events.

Dirty deed, dirtier evidence
The incidents leading up to the Gallagher shooting began just after 5 pm on May 30, 1997. Gallagher, wary of the way a man was looking at two pre-teen girls on the opposite stoop, began following the suspect on foot down Dixwell Street near Egleston Square. This quickly turned into a chase, through a park to Columbus Avenue, then down Cleaves Street, a spot that ends in a 10-foot drop to School Street Place below it.

By the time Gallagher reached School Street Place, he was far enough behind that he had lost sight of the suspect. Gallagher initially walked down an alleyway between houses to his right, before a bystander informed him that the suspect had fled into a fenced-in yard behind 7 School Street Place, on the other side of the road. Gallagher then walked between houses, and peered through slats in a fence to confirm that the suspect was there.

That much of Gallagher’s story is largely corroborated by witnesses — what happened next is not.

According to Gallagher’s testimony, he climbed over the fence and approached the suspect, who attacked him. They began a lengthy hand-to-hand struggle, lasting between a minute-and-a-half to two minutes, he testified, wrestling each other around the yard until the suspect removed Gallagher’s gun from its holster, and raised it to shoot.

Gallagher testified that, as he scaled the fence to escape, the suspect fired two shots, hitting him with both. The suspect then continued firing Gallagher’s department-issued semi-automatic 9mm Glock, before jumping out of the yard.

But the tale of a lengthy struggle is inconsistent with tapes of Gallagher’s BPD radio communications, obtained by the Phoenix. Those demonstrate that only four seconds passed between Gallagher radioing that he was “in the backyard” — with no mention of trouble — and the first call that shots had been fired, followed shortly by a call for an officer shot.

It is also clear, from other officers’ radio transmissions, officers’ reports, and witness statements, that very little time elapsed between Gallagher reaching the yard and Gallagher being shot.

In fact, the eyewitness who saw the shooting from a neighboring window and spoke to the Phoenix tells a very different story than Gallagher’s — one that, records show, is consistent with what this same witness and another person in the same house earlier told police, in large part right after the shooting.

This witness — who asked for anonymity because of fear of retribution by the police — states emphatically that there was no struggle. The shooter was waiting, the witness says, with a gun already in hand, crouched in the back corner of the fenced-in yard when Gallagher entered. Gallagher had his own gun drawn — another witness says that Gallagher’s gun was already un-holstered and in his hand as he ran down School Street Place — and attempted a spinning entry to the yard after kicking down the gate section of the fence. The shooter, still crouched in the back corner, fired as Gallagher was turning. Upon being hit, the witness says, Gallagher dropped his gun and staggered out to the driveway, after which the shooter picked up Gallagher’s weapon and began firing it.

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