“He was a hero,” County Legislator Lyndon Williams – who represents the 13th Legislative District in Mount Vernon – said on the People Before Politics Show, the night before the vote. “If Christopher had walked away, the person who was being brutally assaulted would have probably been murdered or seriously injured. This memorial matters because it’s important for people in the general public to know that people make sacrifices for others.”
The Westchester County lawmakers voted 16-0 to approve funding for the memorial to Christopher Ridley – a 23-year-old rookie officer – who was killed Jan. 25, 2008 after he intervened in a scuffle between two other men. He was in plainclothes when he was shot dead by county police who arrived as Ridley held a gun and tried to detain another man.
“It’s good that we’re finally bringing this legislation forward,” Board Chair Ben Boykin (D – Harrison, Scarsdale, White Plains) shares with Black Westchester, “and I’m glad to see that Legislator Williams is working with the family to ensure that we remember appropriately this young man who died while trying to help others under such terrible, tragic circumstances.”
Most important to Detective Ridley’s father, Stanley Ridley, is that the memorial should be one that reminds people of the circumstances of his son’s death.
“It’s for the people, Stan Ridley tells BW after the legislator meeting, Monday night. “For the people to realize there are police officers who are willing to help. This tragic incident happened and it just went from doing a good deed to people not realizing that [Christopher] was trying to help people,”
The plaza outside of the county Department of Social Services building at 85 Court St. was renamed “Christopher Ridley Plaza” and a temporary wooden plaque was put up in 2009. But the $150,000 will replace that plaque with a permanent memorial.
This may be the first memorial of it kind. Never before has a memorial gone up in the country of an African-American police officer who was shot by his counterpart. Since 1940 over 25 African-American officers have been shot, shot at or killed by their white counterparts in New York State. It has never happened in the reverse.
“I intend to sign the Christopher Ridley Memorial Act to design and build a memorial dedicated to Christopher,” County Executive George Latimer shared with Black Westchester, Tuesday afternoon. “Christopher was a brave Mount Vernon police officer was who killed when he sprang into action to intervene in a fight on Court Street. Ridley was not in his uniform, but nonetheless acted as a police officer would. His death was untimely, his actions bold and we will now forever remember his bravery.”
Mr. Ridley said he hopes a memorial will serve as part of a dialogue. “There needs to be a message kept for us to dwell on, but you can’t dwell on it if you don’t know the story,” he said.
Ridley said that he hopes some of the money will be used not only for a memorial but also to “refresh” the plaza that bears his son’s name in front of 85 Court Street.