Surveillance footage shows New York judge hours before death

Posted at 8:32 AM, Apr 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-20 08:32:00-04

Law enforcement has recovered video surveillance footage of a New York state judge walking alone near the Hudson River, about 12 hours before her body was found in the water, the NYPD said.

The body of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam was found last Wednesday afternoon in the river, and though no note was found, law enforcement thought the investigation pointed to a possible suicide, sources told CNN last week.

Footage from multiple surveillance cameras shows the judge walking alone in Harlem not far from the river about 9 p.m. Tuesday and again just after midnight. She is seen in the footage dressed in the same clothes she was wearing at the time her body was discovered, according to Sgt. Brendan Ryan.

The death of the first African-American woman to serve on New York state’s highest court is still under investigation after the autopsy came back inconclusive, authorities say.

The initial autopsy completed last week came back inconclusive and the cause and manner of death are pending while additional testing is processed, according to Medical Examiner’s Office spokesperson Julie Bolcer.

“Until such a determination is made, the death may be classified as suspicious, in that the circumstances have not been clearly established,” the NYPD said in a statement to CNN.

Robert Boyce, chief of detectives for the New York police, told reporters that there were no apparent injuries to Abdus-Salaam’s body and that her death did not appear to be criminal in nature.

New York mourns loss of judge

“Obviously, we’re still waiting for the full investigation, but to the extent that the challenges and the stresses in her life contributed to this, it’s a reminder that even the most accomplished people still deal with extraordinary challenges inward, and we don’t get to see that,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters last week.

“It is humbling. It’s a sad day. Someone who got so far and was lost so soon.”

Abdus-Salaam was the first African-American woman to serve on New York state’s highest court, having served as an associate justice on the New York Court of Appeals since 2013. She was a trailblazer and “humble pioneer,” according to those who knew her.

The judge was not unfamiliar with tragedy. Her brother committed suicide three years ago around this time of year, two law enforcement sources told CNN. Abdus-Salaam, 65, had also been stressed recently at work, the sources said.

The judge was last heard from about 9 a.m. last Tuesday, according to two law enforcement sources. Abdus-Salaam’s husband told police his wife’s secretary received a call from the judge saying she wouldn’t be into work that day.

Police responded to a 911 call about a person floating in the Hudson around 1:45 p.m. last Wednesday. They found an unconscious and unresponsive woman, who was later pronounced dead and identified as Abdus-Salaam. She was fully clothed in running attire, a black hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants and sneakers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed her to the court, hailed her as a “trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”