A city teen pleaded not guilty to second degree murder and assault charges Thursday in connection with a Coney Island fire that killed a city police officer and has another fighting for her life. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
The Guerra family came to court Thursday to face their loved one's alleged killer for the first time.
Police officer Dennis Guerra died in the line of duty after he and his partner responded to a fire in Coney Island last month. Prosecutors indicted 16-year-old Marcell Dockery on charges of second degree murder and assault. He pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
"Don't be fooled by the young face. His actions were serious, his actions were adult actions, and his actions were life and death, and in this case, it caused death," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch.
Surrounded by police officers, family members wore buttons with Guerra's face but decided not to talk.
Guerra died of smoke inhalation several days after the fire. His partner, Rosa Rodriguez, was severely injured. She remains in the hospital in serious condition.
Police say Dockery confessed to setting a mattress on fire out of boredom. However, his attorney, Jesse Young, says that's not true and is asking the judge to allow a false confession expert to testify in the case.
"We adamantly deny that he confessed. The confession was not voluntary. It was forced and it was coerced. And the record in this case will show that at the time of trial," Young said.
Dockery's family hid their faces from the camera in court and declined to speak. His defense lawyer spoke about the alleged conditions Dockery faced during police questioning.
"Hours of intense questioning in a windowless room at one of the precincts with two seasoned detectives with minimal food, with no sleep," Young said.
The police union says those are excuses and that Dockery is the reason Guerra is dead.
"The result is the same as if he pulled out a gun and shot that police officer. He's a murderer," Lynch said.
The judge will decide if Dockery's false confession expert can testify in this case.
Lawyers are due back in court on May 29.