The New York Times
October 4, 2007


Two Detectives Shot While Pursuing Suspect in Bronx

By THOMAS J. LUECK

Two detectives were grazed by bullets yesterday — one of them on his forehead — while apprehending a man being sought in a shooting after the man jumped from a second-floor window of a Bronx apartment, the police said.

Had the shots been fired from a slightly different angle, the authorities said, the outcome could have been far worse for the officers.

“A tiny fraction of one degree change in the direction and we would not be here relieved, we would be here praying,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a news conference at St. Barnabas Hospital, where he visited the detectives.

The two detectives, Daniel Rivera, 41, who was grazed just above his eyebrows, and William Gonzalez, 42, whose right shin was grazed, were part of a team of five officers, all in plainclothes, trying to serve a warrant for a man wanted in a July 2 bodega shooting in which two men were hurt. The suspect, Jermaine Taylor, 18, was believed to be in an apartment at 2422 Webster Avenue in Fordham.

The police said three officers, including Detective Rivera, knocked on the door of the second-floor apartment and called out that they were police officers. When a woman opened the door, the officers saw someone rushing toward a window in the back, they said.

Detective Gonzalez and Detective Thomas Murphy, 39, who had been waiting at the rear of the building, heard someone remove an air-conditioner from a second-floor window, then saw Mr. Taylor jump more than 20 feet into a narrow alley, the police said.

Mr. Taylor broke his pelvis in the fall — but managed to get up and start shooting a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, the police said. He fired six times, they said, first striking Detective Gonzalez’s right shin.

Detective Rivera bolted outside to help and was grazed above his eyebrows. Both officers were treated at St. Barnabas and released.

The police said the three detectives returned Mr. Taylor’s fire with 13 rounds of their own: Detective Rivera and Detective Gonzalez each fired five times, and Detective Murphy fired three times. One round struck Mr. Taylor, blasting off the end of his finger, but it was unclear yesterday which officer had fired the bullet. Police officials said the shootings appeared to be within department guidelines.

Under a new policy of mandatory sobriety tests for any officer who shoots someone, the detectives were tested and were found not to have consumed alcohol.

The mandatory sobriety tests, which have been challenged by union officials, were ordered by the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, after a Queens man, Sean Bell, 23, was fatally shot in a volley of 50 bullets in November.

The tests have been opposed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents 23,000 officers. The union maintains that they represent a new work rule that can only be approved through collective bargaining.

Patrick J. Lynch, the group’s president, said that the detectives involved in yesterday’s gunfire exchange “should be receiving praise and commendations, no alcohol testing.”

The police said late yesterday that Mr. Taylor would be charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon.

Three other people staying at the apartment, which Paul E. Browne, the chief police spokesman, described as a flophouse, were also arrested: Jeremy Lopez, 18, on a warrant for disorderly conduct; Sean Johnson, 18, on a warrant for carrying an imitation gun; and Trojan Hart, 32, who the police said was in possession of marijuana.

Four other people, including an 11-year-old boy, were also in the apartment when the police entered, and all were led away for questioning. Mr. Browne said Mr. Taylor was not related to anyone in the apartment.

The police turned three pit bulls in the apartment over to Animal Care and Control of New York City.

Mr. Browne, who visited the scene after the shooting, said investigators found bags of marijuana.

“It is hard to describe the stench,” Mr. Browne said.

Joseph Brown, 60, who was visiting someone in another apartment at 2422 Webster Avenue, said he had been sitting outside on the stoop at about 4:30 a.m. when a man he later realized was Mr. Taylor emerged to walk a dog. He remained on the stoop after the man had returned, and saw three detectives arrive at the front of the building a short time later. They asked to see Mr. Brown’s identification, he said.

“About 10 minutes later, the gunfire started,” he said. Then, after other officers, an ambulance and emergency workers arrived, Mr. Brown said, “they took the kid out on a stretcher.”

“He was strapped down,” Mr. Brown added. “He wasn’t moaning or anything.”

Of the three detectives involved in the gunfire exchange yesterday, Detective Rivera was the only one who had discharged his weapon before while on duty. Mr. Browne said Detective Rivera returned the fire of two robbery suspects in 1993, but no one was injured, and his action was determined to be within department guidelines.

Colin Moynihan and Mathew R. Warren contributed reporting.