Friday, August 28, 2015

Two Shot by Undercover New York City Police Officer in Westchester
New York Times
AUG. 28, 2015

Two people — including a bystander — were shot by an undercover New York City police officer in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Friday afternoon when an investigation into an illegal firearms dealer went awry, the authorities said.

Both people who were shot were taken to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, Terrance Raynor, the Mount Vernon police commissioner, said.

The New York Police Department said that the episode unfolded around 4 p.m., during an investigation into a suspected illegal firearms dealer.

Detective Michael DeBonis, a spokesman for the department, said the gun dealer was the subject of a “long-term firearms investigation.” The police said that undercover officers in the past had purchased numerous firearms from him. He contacted an undercover police officer on Friday and asked to meet in the Bronx so that he could sell the officer a gun, Detective DeBonis said. When the officer arrived, the dealer asked him to drive them to Mount Vernon, a city in Westchester County about one mile from the New York City border.

The gun dealer asked to be taken to the intersection of Beekman Avenue and Tecumseh Avenue. When they arrived, Detective DeBonis said, a third man climbed into the back seat of the car, held a gun to the officer’s head and demanded his money. After the robber took the officer’s money and began to run away, he pointed his gun at the officer, the police said. The undercover officer climbed out of his vehicle and opened fire, striking the robber three times in the torso, the detective said. He also accidentally hit a 63-year-old man who was standing nearby, Detective DeBonis said.

A second team of undercover officers nearby shot at the robber as he fled, firing several rounds, the detective said. The bystander, whose name was not immediately released and who the police had originally said was 62, was taken to Jacobi Medical Center in serious condition, Detective DeBonis said. The police said he had been shot twice in the torso.

A witness who would not give his name for fear of reprisals said he saw the bystander being taken into an ambulance with a large bandage wrapped around his head. The wounded man told emergency workers he was in pain, the witness said.

The robber, who had a replica of a .45-caliber handgun, was taken into custody and transported to the hospital.

James P. O’Neill, the chief of department for the Police Department, said the robber had the undercover officer’s money in his possession.

The suspected gun dealer escaped during the melee. Neither the name of the robber nor the suspected gun dealer was immediately released, though the police said the robber was 37 years old.

The undercover officers were part of a team from the department’s organized crime control bureau firearms investigations unit, Chief O’Neill said.

Commissioner Raynor said that several vehicles were struck by bullets during the shooting and that one went through the front door of a nearby home. An employee of a nearby business, Renzo Auto Body, said that gunfire had come through its windows as well. “Things went awry, and shots were fired,” Commissioner Raynor said.

The shooting occurred near the intersection of Beekman Avenue and Tecumseh Avenue, a residential neighborhood of three-story houses. The commissioner said it was “a relatively quiet residential area where this incident occurred, not known for violence of any sort.”

Tony Isles, who lives near the scene of the shooting, said he ran to the window after he heard two bursts of gunfire on the street nearby.

“It was a ton of shots,” he said. “Bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap! Then it stopped, and then bap, bap, bap, bap again. I couldn’t count how many shots because it was such rapid fire.”

Mr. Isles said he watched from his second-story window as two men and two women fled down the street.

“I looked out the window,” he said, “and saw people running from the scene.”

A woman who lives near the shooting scene said she was inside her home with the windows open when she heard between 10 and 12 gunshots. She said the neighborhood had problems in the past with drugs and guns, and declined to give her name because she was afraid of retribution.

When the shooting began, “all you hear is gunshots, you don’t know where the bullets are coming from,” she said. She looked outside after she heard a helicopter overhead.

“I saw cops running all over the place,” she said. “Running here, running there, all these undercover guys.”

Rick Rojas contributed reporting, and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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