Ex-Cop Gets Three Years in Jail for Driver's Death

Prosecutors said that Lora acted recklessly by firing his weapon

A former New York City police officer convicted of fatally shooting an unarmed, drunken driver who he had gone to help after a car crash was sentenced Thursday to one to three years in prison.
Rafael Lora, 37, had faced a maximum 15 years in prison after being convicted in a non-jury trial of second-degree manslaughter in the 2007 death of Honduran immigrant Fermin Arzu in the Bronx.
A weeping and remorseful Lora read a statement to the court before his sentencing.

"I have to live with these consequences the rest of my life," he said as he dabbed his face with a tissue and asked for leniency. "The Arzu family is weighing heavily on my mind."

Outside the courtroom, Arzu's relatives said they were heartened that Lora would serve prison time, but unmoved by his statements of remorse.

"I didn't feel that was really coming from his heart," said Arzu's 22-year-old daughter, Katherine. ``He was just saying that so that they could have remorse for him to give him less time in jail.''

Bronx State Supreme Court Judge Margaret Clancy, calling the case "unquestionably tragic and heartbreaking," said she had to consider both the demands of justice from Arzu's family and Lora's good record as a police officer in determining the sentence. She said it was "incomprehensible'' that Lora had initially gone to help the man but instead ended up killing him.

Prosecutors said that Lora acted recklessly by firing his weapon as they asked for a sentence of imprisonment.

Lora's attorney, Stuart London, had called for a sentence of probation, saying that his client was "an exemplary officer."

"He is a good man who is tortured by his actions," London said.

Lora claimed that he raced out his Bronx home while off-duty on May 18, 2007, after hearing a minivan driven by Arzu crash into a parked car. Out of uniform, but holding his badge and service pistol, he opened the door of the van to stop the driver from fleeing.

The officer said that Arzu ignored his commands and began driving the vehicle away, nearly dragging Lora along. The officer fired five shots; one went through Arzu's heart. The minivan kept went a block before catching fire.

Lora remains free on $50,000 bail. His lawyers said they plan to appeal the verdict. The Arzu family has filed a civil suit against the city.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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