Michael Lembhard's family asking for both district attorney and police to step aside
OULIMATA BA Special to the AmNews | 6/26/2012, 2:08 p.m.
When the police killed 22-year-old Michael Lembhard in Newburgh, New York, everyone thought he was shot nine times. But the autopsy report, released earlier this month, shows something different- Lembhard was shot 15 times by two officers and eight of the bullets were in his back.
"We have a certified report this is murder," said Omari Shakur, spokesperson for the Lembhard family. "We didn't' realize it was 15 shots to the body. I mean he must have been on the floor when [the police officer] was shooting. The whole story is a lie."
Since Lembhard's death in March, his family has been calling for an impartial prosecutor to be assigned to the investigation, claiming that the district attorney in charge is biased in favor of the police. Now that the autopsy report is out, Lembhard's family is demanding swift repercussions against the Newburgh police. Lembhard's family feel the police's implausible stories surrounding his death have done nothing but stymie their efforts for justice.
So far, Lembhard's family has garnered support from the city of Newburgh. Three weeks ago Newburgh government officials, including the mayor, released a letter backing the family's request for an impartial prosecutor. Despite the letter, though, a new prosecutor has not yet been assigned.
The family asserted their case again at a press conference before a Newburgh City Council meeting last week. About 50 of Lembhard's family members were there.
"We asked the city council to fire the police, and we asked the D.A. to indict them," said Juanita King, Lembhard's cousin.
Each family member held an index card, saying "the city of Newburgh police shot my..." brother, cousin, etc, said King. King said the chief of police, who usually attends City Council meetings, was not there.
Lembhard's death is currently under grand jury investigation. Some of Lembhard's family members testified before the grand jury the day after the press conference.
Michael Lembhard's sister, Cherry Lembhard, in whose home her brother was shot, said evidence from the crime scene was moved when the crime scene photographs were taken.
"They said that [Michael] grabbed the knife, I had a knife block above my kitchen window on a shelf," Cherry Lembhard said. "In the picture they had it on the counter." She said she never put it there.
The night of Michael Lembhard's death, Cherry Lembhard was sleeping on the second floor when she was woken up by a loud noise. She went to the top of the landing to see what it was.
"I looked down. I saw a cop pointing a gun at me and he said 'don't move or I'll shoot your f--ing a--'"
Cherry Lembhard heard shots shortly after from downstairs. She said the cop at the bottom landing then ran up the stairs towards her.
"He ran in the room and put the gun to my eight year old child and told her to get out, cursing at her," said Cherry Lembhard. She said the police never put that part in their report. "When I read it I asked him why he did not put that in there. He said it was irrelevant to the case. I don't think it's irrelevant."
The police also claim to not know the number of times Michael Lembhard was shot, although some police officers were present at the autopsy in March, Shakur said.
"If they were there, how do you not know that it was 15 shots?" Shakur said. "So who's running the city? That's what we want to know."
Police did not respond to phone calls and messages from the Amsterdam News.
"If it was one or two shots, I wouldn't be as outraged as I am," Cherry said. "Fifteen gun shots hitting him, that's a little overreacting. I continue to believe to this day, any one of them could have ricochet upstairs and killed one of my kids."