DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The family of a bodega worker shot dead by a man who grabbed a police officer's gun outside the shop is seeking $20 million from the city, claiming a faulty gun holster was to blame for his death, according to the family’s lawyer.
Wali Camara, a 49-year-old Malian immigrant, was fatally shot by Efrain Guzman, 30, who grabbed a police officer’s gun outside of N&A Foods on East 198th Street and Valentine Avenue in The Bronx on Aug. 9, according to police.
The shooting followed an argument after Camara kicked Guzman out of the bodega for bothering customers and trying to sell them phone chargers, police said.
Guzman went across the street, but Camara followed him and the two got into a fight, police said. Officers intervened and pulled Guzman out of the store, but he grabbed one of the officer’s weapons and fatally shot Camara before being shot by police, the NYPD said.
Camara’s family has now notified the city that it intends to sue for negligence because Guzman wasn’t immediately handcuffed and the officer was using an outdated gun holster. They also question whether the officer was properly trained to deal with a suspect trying to take his weapon.
“The holster which has now been replaced with a holster that is more difficult to get a gun from by a perpetrator, which has a double snap, should not have been used in the first place,” said family lawyer Sanford Rubenstein.
The Safariland 2955 holster, which the New York Daily News reported was rejected by the Los Angeles Police Department more than 20 years ago, uses one snap button to hold the gun in place, the attorney noted.
The NYPD started changing them out for the safer Safariland 6360 in 2014, but only new officers received the new model, which has two snaps and requires two moves to take out, according to Rubenstein.
A Safariland spokesman said the LAPD never rejected the 2955 model, noting that holster was built specifically to order for the NYPD.
Following Camara’s death, the NYPD announced it would be replacing all of the older model gun holsters.
The NYPD is now transitioning to the newer 7360 model, which has an automatic locking system, the Safariland spokesman said.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to request for comment about the new gun holsters.
Camara’s brother-in-law spoke at a Tuesday press conference, asking why the NYPD didn’t upgrade its holsters sooner.
“It’s been difficult for all the family since he’s been killed and we just couldn’t understand why it took the police this long, knowing that Los Angeles banned this kind of holster, knowing it’s a defective one,” Mody Doucoure said. “We are grateful for the change but it came too late for Wali Camara.”
He remembered his brother-in-law as a good person who was beloved by everyone in the neighborhood.
“This was the first Thanksgiving we get together without him, usually when he’s around it’s so different,” Doucoure said. “He was just a lovely person, a very amazing person.”
Guzman was charged with murder, attempted murder of a police officer, robbery, assault, criminal possession of a firearm, menacing a police officer and reckless endangerment, according to police.
Guzman, who has been arrested eight times prior, will appear in Bronx Supreme Court on Jan. 18.