A career criminal charged in a brazen shooting of two police officers charged that “there is no fear on the streets” in an impassioned court appearance Friday, saying he would never give up the freedom of the “upper-class New Yorkers” he targets.
When asked by the judge, Marcell Dockery, 31, why he targeted police officers, he replied: “You’ll have to ask them.”
To which he was told, “You’re facing a charge for trying to take someone’s life.”
Dockery, a convicted felon and repeat defendant, initially shot an officer who responded to a dispute over a parking spot at the Audubon Ballroom in the heart of Harlem on Thursday. He then turned the gun on the two officers, wounding one as he ran away.
“He wanted to get a spot on the dance floor. He was not going to be satisfied,” the wounded officer, Joseph Hall, recounted in court Friday. “I was one of them who wouldn’t yield.”
Dockery pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder. His mother, Gail Dockery, rushed into the courtroom, screaming, as the officers, dressed in street clothes, looked on. “It could’ve been my son,” she told reporters, before excusing herself.
The incident – in a predominantly African-American neighborhood where last year an officer shot and killed an armed 12-year-old named Tamir Rice – underscored the daily dangers for the police in a city where nearly 1,000 people have been shot, eight killed, over the past two months.
It also demonstrated that while the nation has spent billions of dollars rebuilding strained relations between communities of color and police, incidents like this one have exposed the issue as still simmering.
On Friday, at the third police training class Dockery has received after being arrested a dozen times on charges ranging from drug trafficking to robbery, he spoke to the judge about fighting crime. “It’s called brutality,” he said, using his cellphone to record the proceedings. “The cops are out for their own.”
As the statement went viral on social media and was released to the media, there was talk of compassion for Dockery. The reaction was more resolute.
On Friday, more than 700 people packed the courtroom to hear Dockery appear before a judge who was in the midst of his own session.
As the public entered, a TV broadcast showed Dockery’s plea, about 9:30 a.m., broken up into a half-dozen portions. As Dockery, shackled at the ankles, was led from the court, the public gallery was filled with police officers and others clutching signs critical of officers and praising Dockery.
“Police officers take very seriously their jobs, and they take very seriously the livelihoods of people in our neighborhoods,” police Commissioner William Bratton said.
Dockery apologized to Hall in court. “I apologize to you for any harm that you may have suffered,” he said.
The judge refused to release Dockery on bail. A hearing is scheduled for March 9.
The officers were participating in a training session that Bratton had scheduled for some 7,000 officers on how to handle situations involving mental health and violence, such as riots, riot police and making arrests, as he tries to shore up a fractured relationship between the police and minority communities.
Bratton said officers were asked about any concerns they might have, as they deal with mentally ill people.
“One of the first questions officers were asked was this, is it your concern that those challenging people end up harming or killing you? And clearly one of the points made, this defendant did all three,” Bratton said.
“To attempt to shoot innocent New Yorkers out to help is, it should be, unacceptable,” he said.