Police Murder in New York Hasidic Community

The Killing of Gidone Busch

Revolutionary Worker #1025, October 10, 1999

Borough Park is a quiet, lower middle class community in the heart of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is made up overwhelmingly of Jewish people belonging to the Hasidic sect, a strictly observant version of orthodox Judaism. On Saturdays there are virtually no cars driving through the streets because of the Jewish sabbath. Borough Park is also a longtime base of support for New York City Mayor Giuliani and the police. The last thing you expected to see here was masses of people taking to the streets in anger against the police--at least until August 30. That was the day that the police shot and killed 31-year-old Gidone Busch in cold blood.

The shooting brought many people in Borough Park face-to-face with the reality of police murder and the hateful politics of "Adolf" Giuliani. And many Black and Latino people pointed to the shooting as evidence of how deep the problem of police brutality runs. As Richard Montoya of Culture Clash said about the shooting, "It's a paradigm shift."


Gidone Busch was a medical student ten years ago when he learned he had an incurable kidney disease. He dropped out of school, and in the years that followed, he suffered from mental illness. Five years ago he converted to Hasidic Judaism.

On August 30 cops arrived in Borough Park in response to a call about a distraught man wielding a hammer. The first thing they did was mace Gidone Busch. Then, with guns drawn and in shooting stance, the cops surrounded Busch--and fired 12 to 14 shots. "It was like a public execution," said a witness.

The police claim they were in mortal danger from Busch, who hit a sergeant with the hammer several times without causing serious injury. Police Commissioner Safir kept referring to the tool as a "claw hammer"--although it was a type of hammer that could be found in any household. In any case, how does a man with a hammer pose such huge "danger" to cops armed with semi-automatic guns?

Witnesses say Busch was as much as 15 feet away from the cops who shot him. Yehuda Fisher said, "He didn't stick his hands in his pocket and pull something out. Police were not confused about him. They saw it was only a small hammer." Another witness, Mordechai Lefkowitz, said, "They could have shot his hand, they could have shot him in the leg, or kicked the weapon out of his hand. To be shot so many times is crazy."

Safir responded by spelling out NYPD's deadly policy: "This isn't the movies. You don't shoot hammers out of hands You don't shoot people in the leg. If you use your weapons in exerting deadly physical force, then you shoot to stop the individual who is exerting deadly physical force against you." Safir heads a police force which has killed people for holding a toy gun, a beeper and an ordinary hammer. What he's really saying is that anyone who so much as raises a hand against the police--or is merely suspected of doing so--is subject to "deadly physical force."

Immediately after Gidone Busch was murdered, hundreds of people took to the streets of Borough Park to denounce the police and demand justice. Cops were pelted with eggs. Giuliani hurriedly met with community leaders--then declared that the cops "acted in a responsible way."

A couple days after the killing, a multinational team went to the area with the Stolen Lives book and information about the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. They reported being well received by people in the neighborhood. Some residents were trying to figure out if they could attend the October 22 protest--since it will be starting as their sabbath begins.


Just two days after Gidone Busch was killed, the police shot Richard Watson in the back in West Harlem. His alleged "crime"? Skipping out of paying cab fare! The police claim the shooting of Watson, who was unarmed, was "accidental." People in this mainly Black and Latino neighborhood gathered at the scene shouting "policía asesinos!" Some held up newspaper pictures of Gidone Busch.

Busch and Watson were among five people killed by the NYPD in five weeks. And they have killed one more man since then. NYPD's trail of blood circles the city.

But something else comes into focus: Black and Latino people holding up pictures of a Jewish victim of police murder. Jewish people seriously studying the Stolen Lives book containing the pictures of 2,000 people killed by the police, mainly Black and Latino. These are signs of broader and greater numbers of people coming into resistance against the murderous epidemic of police brutality. It's a welcome and urgently needed "paradigm shift."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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