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White officer is held liable for shooting of black cop

A jury held a white patrol officer responsible Friday for civil rights violations in the slaying of a black officer who was shot outside a diner while off duty and out of uniform.

The other white officer involved in the shooting was cleared of civil rights violations by the all-white jury.

The verdict in the federal lawsuit could open the city and the Police Department to millions of dollars in damages.

The case now moves into a second phase to determine whether negligence in training and hiring at the Police Department led to the shooting.

The mother of Sgt. Cornel Young Jr., 29, sued for $20-million after he was killed in 2000 by two white patrol officers responding to a report of a disturbance outside a diner.

Young had rushed outside the restaurant with his firearm to assist the officers _ Michael Solitro and Carlos Saraiva _ who were confronting another armed man involved in an argument between two women, police Chief Urbano Prignano Jr. said around the time of the shooting.

Young, who was not in uniform, was shot when he did not respond to the officers' commands to drop his firearm, Prignano said.

The shooting raised questions from minority activists and Young's friends about whether racial profiling, the practice of assigning more criminal suspicion to a person because of race, played a role in his death,

Young was the son of Maj. Cornel Young Sr., commander of the Community Police Division and the highest-ranking black officer in department history.

Police said that a fight broke out inside the restaurant between two women, one of whom broke a glass and tried to slash the other. An employee called police as the manager began clearing the restaurant.

Two uniformed officers soon arrived at the scene, where they were confronted by Aldrin Diaz, 30, of Providence, who was brandishing a gun. The police drew their service pistols and ordered Diaz to drop his weapon.

At this time, Prignano said, Young ran from inside the restaurant to assist his fellow officers. Two officers ordered him to drop his gun, then fired.

In recent years, black officers in several cities, including New York, Washington and Ventura, Ca., have been shot and killed by other officers who thought they were suspects.

The jury deliberated for less than eight hours before concluding that Solitro violated Young's civil rights, but Saraiva did not.

Young's mother, Leisa Young, cried after the verdict was read. She left the courthouse without comment. Young's father and mother have been divorced for more than 20 years.

Spokesmen for the Police Department and the mayor's office had no comment. Lawyers for both sides left the courtroom without comment.

Cliff Montiero, president of the Providence chapter of the NAACP, said he wished the jury had found both officers in violation of Young's rights. But the verdict, he said, relieves the Youngs from the "smear that their son was responsible for his own death."

_ Information from the Boston Globe was used in this report.