A death in the family for Rev. Richardson

The Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson has never been one to stay quiet.

He’s not about to start now.

Christopher Ridley, the 23-year-old, off-duty Mount Vernon police officer who was fatally shot by Westchester County police on Friday in an apparent mistake, was a member of Richardson’s church, Grace Baptist in Mount Vernon.

tjndc5-5b5hvz3cym9bzkzsezi_layout.jpgRidley’s father has been the head of maintenance at Grace Baptist for a decade.

So this tragedy is very close to Richardson. It’s family to him.

Richardson called the shooting “an outrageous execution of a young African-American.”

Ridley was trying to break up a fight between two homeless men and apparently called for police back-up.

So now Richardson and Al Sharpton are waiting to see how the White Plains PD and the Westchester County DA’s office will handle things. They’re probably not going to want to wait very long for answers.

An addition: I just spoke to Richardson, hoping to find out more about what he meant when he called the shooting an “execution.”

He said that he didn’t mean to say that the four officers meant to kill Ridley.

The problem, he said, is that “police culture” teaches officers to distrust young black men.

“I was trying to use language that brings attention to how the system failed brother Ridley,” Richardson told me. “Brother Ridley sought to become part of the system, to advance good and positive outcomes. Then the system turned on him.”

The four cops involved in the shooting were themselves victims, Richardson said. Of the system. Of the culture.

“The problem is bigger than these police officers,” he said. “We have to get to a place where we don’t have police officers reacting that way to a black man.”

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.