A New York police officer, responding to reports of a robbery at a neighborhood food store, accidentally killed an unarmed worker fleeing the robbery, police said Friday.
The shooting in the Bronx was the latest involving a New York officer and civilians. Late last month, two police officers wounded nine bystanders while apprehending a gunman who had killed a former co-worker near the Empire State Building in Manhattan.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the Bronx shooting a tragic accident. The victim, Renaldo Cuevas, 20, was shot as he fled the bodega and ran into a police officer. Cuevas was the nephew of the store’s owner.
“An officer with his gun drawn was waiting outside,” Kelly told reporters at a news conference, where he also released security camera video of the incident. Cuevas was moving at “full speed into the officer. The two became entangled, at which point we believe the officer accidentally discharged his weapon, with one round entering Mr. Cuevas' left shoulder.”
Cuevas was taken to a hospital, where he died. Police have charged three men with felony murder and robbery in connection with the incident.
“The tragedy here of course was that Mr. Cuevas was shot, but I see nothing wrong with the procedure,” Kelly told reporters, adding, “We want to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Cuevas for their loss.”
The incident began about 1:50 a.m. Friday when three people -- one armed with a .32-caliber revolver -- entered the store at 169th Street and Franklin Avenue. The gunman ordered Cuevas and the night manager, Felix Mora, to lie on the floor. Mora was struck in the head with the gun, which was unloaded, police said.
The gunman searched the men while the others filled a backpack with cash, cigarettes and lottery tickets. Then they saw police outside; the officers had responded to an emergency call placed by a passerby, who also flagged down the police.
Two of the suspects, Orlando Ramos, 32, and Ernesto Delgado, 28, allegedly fled to the back of the store and the basement.
In the video, Mora and Cuevas are then seen getting off the floor and moving outside. Cuevas, head down, is seen running into the unidentified officer, with the pair falling onto the sidewalk; one round is fired.
“The events I just described transpired in a matter of seconds, and the collision between Mr. Cuevas and the officer in split seconds,” Kelly said. “The night manager was able to convey quickly that he had been held up at gunpoint. But Mr. Cuevas, in an understandable panic to get away from the gunman as fast as possible, ran straight into the officer.”
The officer, described as a seven-year veteran of the force, was placed on desk duty pending an internal investigation. That is department protocol.
The third suspect, Christopher Dorsey, 17, followed the two employees out of the store and surrendered, police said.
Delgado surrendered about four hours later. Police found Ramos tied to a pole in the basement; both tried to convince police that they were victims of the robbers.
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