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3 Held in Slaying of N.Y. Undercover Officers

The Nation

March 12, 2003|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Two undercover detectives seeking to buy a submachine gun were shot dead by alleged gun dealers after backup officers lost sight of them in Staten Island, and authorities Tuesday seized a suspect who had disguised himself as a woman.

The 19-year-old suspect, Omar Green, surrendered to police at the Staten Island ferry terminal wearing a dress, wig and lipstick, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Green had been the focus of an intense manhunt since Monday night's shootings.

Kelly said a pistol belonging to one of the slain detectives was discovered at the home of Green's mother.

Two other suspected assailants had already been arrested. A fourth still was being sought.

It was the first time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that any New York police officer had been killed as the result of a crime.

"When you try to explain to a widow, try to answer her question about, 'What do I say to the kids?' you realize how horrific this is," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told a news conference. "This kind of barbarism will not be tolerated."

Kelly said the detectives, whose names were being withheld temporarily by police, bought a handgun from Green on March 3 as part of an investigation.

On Monday night, the detectives picked up several men at an apartment building on Staten Island, Kelly said.

The car containing the detectives and the suspected assailants was followed by backup teams in four other unmarked police vehicles.

But when it stopped suddenly to let one of the passengers out, the backup teams were forced to drive past.

The backup officers lost sight of the car in a hilly section of Staten Island; radio contact also was lost from a wireless transmitter the detectives carried.

A worried police supervisor in the backup caravan ordered an urgent search.

The officers, posing as gun buyers, were shot in the head from the back seat of their black Nissan Maxima, police said.

The bodies of the detectives, who were 34 and 36 years old, were found on a street after they apparently were pushed out of the car. It was later found abandoned.

The $1,200 the officers carried was found with their bodies.

Teams of heavily armed emergency service officers temporarily closed lanes leading to Brooklyn on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, spanning the entrance to New York's harbor. Other officers boarded ferries running from Staten Island to Lower Manhattan.

Helicopters were summoned and police searched the apartment building where the men met the detectives.

Police said the officers were members of the department's elite organized crime gun control bureau, which last year arrested almost 3,000 people for allegedly carrying or selling illegal weapons.

"It was intended to be a robbery," Kelly said.

In a statement, Gov. George E. Pataki called the killings "cold-blooded murder."

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