AFRICANGLOBE – A New York City police officer in plain clothes was shot in the face and critically wounded on Saturday in Queens after driving up in an unmarked car to question a man on the street, officials said.
The officer, Brian Moore, 25, was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was listed in critical but stable condition, the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said at a news conference at the hospital late Saturday as Officer Moore remained in surgery.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the shooting an “unconscionable act of violence” and “a reminder of the dangers that all of our officers face every single day.”
Officer Moore was shot around 6:15 p.m. on 212th Street in Queens Village, said the police. He and Erik Jansen, both anti-crime officers, were in a car with Officer Moore at the wheel near 104th Avenue when they approached a man who was allegedly “walking and adjusting an object in his waistband” and began speaking with him, Mr. Bratton said.
Almost immediately, officials said, the man allegedly fired at the plainclothes officers before they could step from the car or return fire. Witnesses described hearing at least two shots, according to the chief of detectives, Robert K. Boyce. The wounded officer was rushed to the hospital by other officers.
By late Saturday, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, had been taken into custody at a house near the shooting after an intensive 90-minute search, Mr. Bratton said. “He resides on that block,” Mr. Bratton said, but was located in a home that was not his own.
Bratton described Mr. Blackwell as a man with a history of arrests — including robbery and criminal possession of a weapon — and said that he had served time in prison.
Bratton said that officers had allegedly been seeking Mr. Blackwell, who lives a block away from the site of the shooting, on 104th Avenue, to speak with him in connection with a crime, though whether he was a suspect or a witness was not immediately clear..
But it was “activity he engaged in” that drew the attention of the officers on Saturday, Bratton said, specifically the object in the waistband.
Officer Moore appeared to have been shot in the left cheek and the bullet went out the right side of his head, toward the back of the head, a law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the fast-moving events. The wound, then, could be what is known as an “in-and-out,” the official said, meaning it might have missed critical organs, his survival a matter of inches.
Dr. Eli Kleinman, the supervising chief surgeon of the Police Department, said at the news conference that quick work by the first responding patrol car and a team of neurosurgeons had helped them confront a “life-threatening situation.”
After the shooting, officers could be seen going through the garbage outside the white-paneled home with red steps where Mr. Blackwell lives. As of late Saturday, the gun allegedly used in the shooting had not been found.
A cousin of Mr. Blackwell’s who lives near him but who declined to give her name said in a brief telephone interview late Saturday that she was just learning about the shooting: “I am just finding all this stuff out myself. I don’t know anything. All I can do is pray right now.”
For officers across the city, word of the Queens shooting spread rapidly, with many fearing the worst had again occurred. The shooting immediately evoked the December killing of two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who had been targeted for their uniforms and shot dead as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The alleged gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, posted on social media of his desire to kill police officers before coming to New York from Maryland; he killed himself shortly after.
Saturday’s shooting also came at a moment of nationwide tension between police officers and Black communities as protesters again took to the streets over the killing of Freddie Gray, an unarmed Black man in Baltimore who died in police custody.
Demonstrations erupted anew across the country, including in New York City, as Mr. Gray’s name was added to the litany of names — Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice — that were shouted at demonstrations over police killings in recent months. But the account of Saturday’s shooting suggested that the officer had been wounded in the course of doing police work, not the result of a gunman bent on shooting officers, as Mr. Brinsley had been. Anti-crime officers, who address more serious crime conditions in a police precinct than ordinary 911 calls, wear plain clothes and patrol in unmarked cars.
Through Saturday evening, officers across the city traded text messages by cellphones from their foot posts and squad cars. The shooting — a burst of gunfire; officers in their car — had elements of the ambush killing in December.
But the circumstances were more similar to those in the Bronx in January, when two plainclothes officers were shot by a suspect they had been pursuing in connection with an armed robbery. Both officers survived.
Around the scene of the shooting, helicopters circled at sunset. After dark, roads remained closed. “Right now everything’s just blocked off,” said Frank Caffey, who lives on Hollis Avenue in Queens and said he heard gunshots earlier in the evening. The neighborhood of unattached houses and fenced-in yards where Saturday’s shooting took place had struggled with crime, residents said. “This area is kind of bad dealing with that,” said Mr. Caffey.
Angela Macropoulos, Benjamin Mueller and Liam Stack contributed reporting. Alain Delaquérière contributed research.
By: J. David Goodman And Al Baker