By Christian Murray and Bill Parry
Many residents are questioning the way the police handled the investigation into the death of Woodside resident Lou Rispoli, who died several days after being savagely beaten outside of a 43rd Avenue apartment building in Sunnyside.
Rispoli was struck once in the back of the head by a hard object on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 2:00 am. The police were quick to arrive on the scene, only to leave once Rispoli was placed in an ambulance and taken to Elmhurst hospital. However, what happened for the next 36 hours in the investigation remains a mystery.
The police didn’t come back to the scene with their crime scene evidence vehicle until late Sunday afternoon. It was only then that the block was cordoned off with the “crime scene” yellow tape, as they sought to gather evidence. The detectives at the time were searching for evidence under cars with their flashlights, supposedly for the blunt object that struck Rispoli. There was nothing.
Since then, many residents have been asking why it took the police so long to get the investigation going—and did it reduce the chances that the perpetrators, believed to be three men in their 20s, got caught.
On Thursday night, Liz Taylor, a Sunnyside resident, attended the monthly Community Board 2 meeting to ask Captain Donald Powers, the commanding officer of the 108 police precinct, that very question.
Powers was scheduled to speak but was suddenly unable to attend due to issues pertaining to Hurricane Sandy. Powers, who was promoted to Deputy Inspector this week, was also unable to answer these questions at Tuesday’s police precinct meeting since the meeting was canceled due to the storm.
Taylor instead asked councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended the Community Board 2 meeting, that same question. She asked him whether he believed the precinct was slow to respond and whether the police acted according to normal protocol.
“I have talked to Captain Powers and there are a lot of unanswered questions about the investigation,” Van Bramer said. “I think it is a fair question to ask why the evidence vehicle did not show up until Sunday [as opposed to Saturday morning]. I have some of the same questions you have, and we will find out what happened.”
Many residents of 41-00 43rd Ave. have expressed similar doubts as to what they see as a lack of urgency in the investigation. They argue that the perpetrators had more time to flee and the evidence was more likely to disappear over the 36 hour gap.
Several residents of the building claim that they were never interviewed by detectives. Furthermore, the residents said the police were slow to distribute fliers that asked the public for any information.
As the story unfolded over the course of the following week, the public learned sketchy details regarding the incident. According to officials, the perpetrators were in a SUV or 2-door vehicle with Rispoli. Then, they all got out of the vehicle and Rispoli was walking with two of the men near 41-00 43rd Avenue (bet. 41nd and 42nd) before one of them struck him.
Many residents didn’t know a crime had even been committed outside the building several days after it occurred.
“The police are always clamoring for public participation. The only way that can happen is if they inform us that something has happened,” Tony O’Sullivan, a nearby resident, said.
Meanwhile, Patrick Langhenry, a legal aid attorney, said the precinct was behind the eight-ball from the get-go. “I hear they are short staffed and …don’t seem to know how to do old fashioned crime solving.”
Langhenry also pointed to the size of the precinct: it stretches from the East River to 72nd St. in Woodside. He said that the 108 has had to channel more resources into Long Island City as that area has grown.
Meanwhile, Kevin Leddy, a resident with three children, said: “God, if it was one of my loved ones I’d be tearing apart the 108 looking for answers to these questions.”