Congressman Nadler Questions Ashcroft on Busch Shooting, Requests Briefing by Justice Department

Jun 5, 2001 Issues: Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON – Seeking to get detailed answers on a controversial decision by the U.S. Department of Justice, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today directly questioned Attorney General John Ashcroft on the death of one of his constituents, and requested a briefing on the matter by Justice Department officials.  The questioning revolved around the decision yesterday by Alan Vinegrad, the interim United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, not to prosecute four New York City police officers for the death of Brooklyn resident Gideon “Gary” Busch.

“I have just received notice that the Department of Justice has declined to prosecute officers who encircled one of my constituents, Gideon Busch, and shot him to death, even though he was only holding a small hammer at the time and he was clearly emotionally unstable,” Rep. Nadler told Ashcroft.  “As you may know, the Boro Park community in Brooklyn, which I represent, is extremely agitated over this surprising decision.”

“Have you personally reviewed this matter and can you elaborate on the Department’s reasoning on this matter?” Rep. Nadler asked the Attorney General.  Ashcroft responded that he had not personally reviewed the case and thus, couldn’t elaborate.  At that point, Rep. Nadler asked the Attorney General to review the case, and have the Department brief him on the matter.  The Attorney General said he would look into the case, and brief the Congressman on the matter.

On August 30, 1999, Busch, an unarmed man with a history of mental illness, was shot and killed by police officers.  Eyewitnesses said that Mr. Busch did not appear to be a threat to the officers at the time he was shot. The U.S. Attorney’s office on Tuesday said they declined to prosecute the officers involved for criminal civil rights violations because there was a lack of evidence that the officers knowingly used unreasonable force in the shooting.

Rep. Nadler has served in Congress since 1992.  He represents the 8th Congressional District of New York, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.