Councilwoman, legislative candidate seek justice for bodega owners victimized by cops

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez (right) is joined by Danilo Burgos (second from left), Jose Mota (center) and others yesterday during a news conference at City Hall.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez (right) is joined by Danilo Burgos (second from left), Jose Mota (center) and others yesterday during a news conference at City Hall.
Posted: May 01, 2014

THE FORMER HEAD of the 300-member Philadelphia Dominican Grocers Association expressed outrage yesterday that federal prosecutors won't file charges against police officers who allegedly stole cash and goods from bodega owners.

"It is incomprehensible that no charges are going to be brought after several years of federal investigations into most of these crimes," said Danilo Burgos, of Hunting Park.

"The victims need answers from both federal and local authorities. If a decision has been made not to charge the officers, [the merchants] are entitled to know why."

Burgos, who is running for a state House seat in North Philadelphia, was joined at a news conference outside City Hall by City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Jose Mota, founder of the grocers group.

"We had asked the merchants to let justice play itself out," Sanchez said. "We asked them to trust the system. We asked them to cooperate with authorities, and now we stand here embarrassed that we were not able to deliver justice for them.

"If people cannot trust their police department, then we are all in jeopardy. What's happening here with the business owners should have us all outraged."

The bodega incidents were reported in the Daily News' Pulitzer Prize-winning series, "Tainted Justice," in 2009. Last week, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey revealed that federal prosecutors would not file charges. The U.S. attorney and the FBI have steadfastly refused to comment on the case.

Burgos said he would have been joined in person by the bodega owners, but they are busy working 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

"They deserve respect and they deserve an apology for what they have been through," Burgos said.

"For the police, this isn't just about a few bad apples. When you have a system that regularly fails to sustain valid citizen complaints and where even fired officers regularly return to the streets, you are going to see these kinds of abuses."

District Attorney Seth Williams said there is little he can do to intervene, after the feds declined to act.

"The U.S. attorney investigated the case for five years and ultimately decided not to prosecute. The police officers have a legal right to petition to be reinstated," Williams said.


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