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12-06-07, 01:43 PM #1
New York police officer charged with off-duty shooting of drunk illegal Honduran
NEW YORK -- A New York police officer pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge in the shooting death of an unarmed man from Honduras after a car accident in May.
A grand jury's indictment of Officer Raphael Lora was unsealed in a Bronx courtroom Wednesday. He was released on $50,000 bail. He also was suspended without pay.
Police have said Lora, 37, who was off duty, fired five times while trying to stop Fermin Arzu from leaving the accident scene. Arzu died at the scene.
The shooting happened across the street from the officer's home after Arzu crashed his minivan into a parked car.
"The only thing my client is guilty of is protecting the neighborhood he lived in," said defense lawyer Stuart London.
Witnesses told investigators that after the crash, the minivan backed up and drove about a block before Lora, who was on foot, caught up to it. He was standing at the driver's open door when the minivan lurched forward.
Lora discharged his 9mm pistol five times, hitting Arzu once, police have said.
Lora told the grand jury there was a struggle as he tried to stop Arzu, and he fired in self-defense because he feared he would be dragged under the car. Lora said he had identified himself as a police officer.
Toxicology tests showed Arzu's blood alcohol level was over the legal limit at the time of the crash, officials have said.
"The penalty for drunk driving is not death," Arzu family attorney Michael Hardy told reporters.
Lora, who faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted, was ordered to return to court on Jan. 8.
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