Delrawn Small honored with conaming of street where he was killed by cop

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Family and friends of Delrawn Small join electeds and advocates at the conaming of Bradford Street in his honor.
Office of Councilmember Sandy Nurse

The section of Bradford Street between Atlantic and Liberty avenues in East New York was formally co-named over the weekend in honor of Delrawn Small, a 37-year-old Brooklynite who was fatally shot by a New York City police officer on that block in 2016.

Family members and friends of Small joined elected officials and advocates Saturday to unveil the new sign designating the section as Delrawn Small Way.

“I’m beyond grateful to the residents of Bradford Street for being so gracious and welcoming Delrawn’s life and legacy to live on this street,” his sister Victoria Davis said in a statement. “They were all so sweet and never forgot what happened to Delrawn.”

Delrawn Small.Facebook

Gathering dignitaries said that the street conaming wouldn’t bring justice to the family but would at least etch Small’s memory into the fabric of the city.

“Delrawn Small was a father, son, brother, and friend to many in his community, and his death at the hands of NYPD Officer Wayne Issacs is an ongoing stain on our city,” said City Comptroller Brad Lander in a statement. “The renaming of his block on Bradford St. is a small way to honor Delrawn’s life while we continue to fight for justice and accountability for his death. A street is no replacement for a life; Delrawn Small should still be with us today.”

Small was fatally shot by off-duty NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs while both were sitting at a stoplight at the intersection on July 4, 2016. Isaacs and the NYPD initially claimed that Small, in a fit of road rage, had approached the officer, cursed him out, and punched him before Isaacs fired the fatal shots. But surveillance video uncovered several days later cast doubt on the department’s account of the incident, showing Small, who was unarmed and traveling with his girlfriend, step-daughter, and newborn baby, collapse to the ground within seconds of approaching Isaacs’ vehicle.

The family said that Isaacs then refused to render aid to Small and instead called 911, in the process obscuring his role in the incident and the extent of Small’s injuries.

Despite that, Isaacs went on to be acquitted of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter at trial in 2017, and was later cleared of wrongdoing in an internal NYPD investigation; he remains on the force and has returned to active duty. His siblings have spent the intervening years seeking to have Isaacs fired from the force and held accountable for the killing.

Wayne Isaacs at his 2017 trial, where he was acquitted.Getty Images/iStockphoto

“When you talk about our sacrifice and how it impacted us, we’re not victims,” his brother Victor Dempsey said in March. “We’re fighting for our brother, we’re fighting for the rest of the city. And we’re fighting for real change in public safety.”

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city’s police watchdog agency, announced in 2020 that it had substantiated an excessive force complaint against Isaacs, later declaring its intention to bring disciplinary charges. The move was vociferously opposed by the Police Benevolent Association, the powerful NYPD patrol officers’ union, but a judge in February tossed Isaacs’ appeal to derail the probe and in May, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell gave the thumbs up to the watchdog agency to pursue a misconduct case.

A CCRB spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment seeking the current status of the probe and when a disciplinary trial might begin. The CCRB is only enabled to act as a prosecutor in NYPD disciplinary trials against officers it charges; final disciplinary authority rests with the Police Commissioner, who has historically ignored CCRB recommendations in the majority of cases. If found guilty at trial, Isaacs could theoretically face termination from the department.

Nonetheless, family members and advocates continue to say the NYPD should fire Isaacs immediately.

Victoria Davis and Victor Dempsey, sister and brother of Delrawn Small, at a rally at City Hall on March 31, 2022File Photo by Ben Brachfeld

“The whole community was affected by the actions of Officer Wayne Isaacs,” Davis said. “We demand that Officer Wayne Isaacs be fired and that the CCRB hearing be placed on the calendar very soon.”

Many streets in Brooklyn and the other boroughs have been co-named in recent years for victims of police brutality or activists fighting against it. Last year, a section of Linden Boulevard in East New York was co-named for Akai Gurley, who was fatally shot by a police officer at NYCHA’s Pink Houses in 2014. Near the Gowanus Houses, the intersection of Bond and Baltic streets were co-named last year for Nicholas Heyward Sr., whose son Nicholas Jr. was killed by police in 1994 aged just 13, after which the elder Heyward dedicated his life to ending police brutality.

“The Council’s vote to approve the street co-naming of Delrawn Small Way sends an important signal,” said local Councilmember Sandy Nurse, who sponsored the bill to co-name Bradford Street for Small, in a statement. “That our City is taking steps to honor the memory of New Yorkers impacted by violent policing.”