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January 5, 2019, 6:00 PM

Retired cop wounded by gunman in 1991 worried shooter will be paroled


Retired cop Paul Freitas, seen here circa 1987 fears there’s a very real chance that George Hill will be released when the shooter appears before the state Parole Board this year for a fourth time. (Handout)

The gunman who sentenced an NYPD officer to a world of hurt in a 1991 ambush could soon find himself a free man.

Retired cop Paul Freitas, 55, fears there's a very real chance that George Hill will be released when the shooter appears before the state Parole Board this year for a fourth time.

"He caused me a lifetime of pain," Freitas told the Daily News. "To this day, I have heavy stomach pain, and I still have flashbacks all the time. I still have bullet fragments in my face."

The Nov. 16, 1991, shooting not only ended Freitas' career but left him with incessant jaw and stomach discomfort, along with other medical problems that linger 27 years later. He still takes medication as a result.

Freitas and his partner, Officer Fred DeAngelis, stopped a car in the 75th Precinct that fit the description of a vehicle used in a robbery that day — with Hill fleeing the vehicle on foot. The pursuit continued to the intersection of Park Ave. and Saratoga Ave. in Brownsville, where Hill ducked out of view behind some bushes — lying in wait for the trailing cop.

The unsuspecting Freitas ran into a fusillade, with bullets tearing into his jaw, leg and abdomen.

"He ambushed me and fired at least eight rounds," recalled Freitas. "I barely made it to the hospital. I was in surgery for 10 hours. He could have tossed the gun and ran — I never would have caught him — but he wanted to kill me."

Freitas retired on a disability pension in 1993. He later worked in financial planning before venturing back into the security field. But the shooting has indelibly imprinted his life.

"In police code, a 10-13 means an officer needs assistance, so whenever I see the time 10:13 on a clock, I have a flashback," he said. "I'm very uncomfortable talking about this unless it's to a police officer."

Freitas acknowledged that Hill sent him a letter this past November attempting to apologize, but the former cop dismissed the missive as self-serving.

"It was a canned letter just written for him to get out of jail," he said. "In 25 years, he didn't apologize. He could have apologized any time he wanted, but he didn't."

Freitas' fears were heightened last week when explosive allegations emerged that two parole commissioners were heard well before the completion of their deliberations agreeing to release Hill, sources said.

Parole Commissioners Carol Shapiro and Otis Cruse were allegedly overhead agreeing "It's time to let him out" in reference to Hill, the sources said.

The remark, according to a source who was in the building at the time, was made during a break in a parole hearing days before Freitas pleaded at a Dec. 21 board hearing to keep Hill, 46, behind bars. Hill is slated to make his case for release on Monday.

"I can't believe these two people who don't know us are already making a predetermination to let this guy out," said Freitas. "He tried to murder me."

Police union President Patrick Lynch erupted after hearing about the alleged remark. He was already infuriated over the votes from Shapiro and Cruse to release cop killer Herman Bell in April after he served 45 years in prison.

Bell, a member of the Black Liberation Army, was behind bars for the 1971 execution-style murders of Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones.

"This is the second time that it has come to the PBA's attention that the parole process has been ignored by these two parole commissioners who have prejudged the cases that they were to weigh," Lynch said. "Apparently, Commissioners Cruse and Shapiro haven't met a cop-killer or cop-shooter that they don't love. These commissioners must be neutral parties who will make decisions based on the facts in each case and the only the facts."

State correction officials, on behalf of Shapiro and Cruse, vehemently insisted the remark about Hill was never uttered.

"While we typically refrain from responding to rumors and hearsay, this claim is so outrageous, absurd, baseless and pathetic that we cannot remain silent," said spokesman Thomas Mailey. "It seems clear your source is deliberately and irresponsibly planting misinformation in advance of a hearing to be conducted by an independent body and by law follow statutory requirements."