Saying they were convinced the man who shot four Shomrim members on a Boro Park street in 2010 acted in self defense, a Brooklyn jury on Wednesday acquitted David Flores of all serious charges against him, but found him guilty of a lesser illegal gun possession count.
In a ruling that disappointed elected officials representing the local community, the jury forewoman said that enough holes existed in the incident that they had a reasonable doubt if Flores had done anything wrong — including the inappropriate acts several people said they witnessed that triggered the armed confrontation.
One of the jurors, Steve McAllister, told reporters on the way out that over the course of the five-week trial, the jury was confused by large discrepancies between police reports and witness testimony.
“Odds are he may not have acted in self-defense but we didn’t have enough proof to convict him,” he told the Daily News. “There’s a chance that people got carried away.”
But McAllister, a Midwood resident, added that he views the Shomrim patrol, whom he sometimes comes across in his neighborhood, in a positive light.
“It can show the Shomrim in a bad light,” he said of the verdict. “That’s the one thing I feel bad about.”
Reaction from Shomrim and their supporters ranged from frustration to outrage.
Yanky Daskal, a Shomrim coordinator, noted that “justice spoke,” but pronounced himself “disappointed” at the verdict.
“Shomrim is still going to continue doing what they did until now — be the eyes and ears of the police department until the police make the arrests,” Mr. Daskal said. He added that he hoped the judge would “throw the book at him on the gun charges.”
Councilman David Greenfield said he was upset that Flores was found not guilty of the more serious charges, but urged the judge to “consider the importance of keeping illegal guns off our streets” and give him the maximum of 15 years imprisonment.
However, Assemblyman Dov Hikind released a scathing statement on the decision, calling it an “outrage” that is “beyond comprehension.”
“Four unarmed people shot and hospitalized,” said Hikind, a Democrat who represents the district where the shooting took place. “How was this sick individual not found guilty? How could the DA possibly lose this case? Now Flores is out and capable of creating more mayhem? This is our justice system upside down. It’s insane!”
Prosecutors Ernest Chin and Jamie Begley said that Flores, 38, was identified by Shomrim on Sept. 4, 2011, as acting inappropriately. Shomrim, who were already on the lookout for a Hispanic male matching Flores’s description for a similar offense a week before, sent four Shomrim members to the scene, on 46th Street near 10th Ave.
Flores apparently got scared and suddenly took out his gun and fired at them. Avrohom Kaztow, then 54, Motty Pearl, 28, Motty Brauner, 28, and Yoily Klein, 27, were injured. All have since made a complete recovery.
It was a challenging week for the Shomrim. Less than a week earlier, two of their members had come under fire in an unrelated bank robbery incident on 13th Ave. for the first time in their 20-year existence. Both of those episodes sparked a community effort to provide them with bulletproof vests, and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly honored the civilian patrol.
Flores, a Harrisburg, Penn., resident who had nine prior arrests, claimed in his defense that he was attacked by an angry mob who pounded on his car door. He shot the unarmed Shomrim members in self defense, said Douglas Appel, his attorney.
“Instead of calling the police, somebody made the mistake of calling the Shomrim,” Appel said.
The jury apparently agreed, acquitting him on most of the 16 charges, including attempted murder and assault. They found him guilty of carrying an illegal weapon, which J.Z. Browne, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, said could net him between 3 1/2 to 15 years behind bars.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 16. If Flores gets the minimum prison time, he could be out almost immediately since he was in jail for the past three years.