Two men are in custody after an off-duty NYPD officer was shot in the left thigh with his own weapon in Queens on Wednesday but is expected to survive, police said.
The off-duty officer, whose name has not yet been released, was driving his personal vehicle on Queens Boulevard when he got into a verbal exchange with the driver of a minivan blocking the road. That ultimately led to a physical altercation that resulted in the officer’s weapon firing, NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey said on Wednesday.
Police identified the minivan driver as 32-year-old Edwin Rivera. The two drivers met again shortly after the officer had passed the minivan, authorities said, when they “had words” on Queens Boulevard and 70th Street in Woodside.
Police said that while the two cars were stopped at the intersection, the driver’s brother, 27-year-old Shawn Rivera, ran up to the off-duty police officer’s car and smashed a window. That’s when the officer got out of his car, identified himself as a police officer, drew his gun and told Shawn he was under arrest, authorities said.
Video of the incident shows the tension escalating before the three men become physical with one another.
The off-duty officer called 911 and put away his weapon while holding onto Shawn, Maddrey said. As he was waiting for backup, Edwin had then allegedly put the officer in a chokehold as the three men began to struggle, Maddrey said. At one point, the two men took the officer’s weapon from him, and as he was trying to get it back, they all fell to the ground, according to police and video reviewed by Gothamist. While they were fighting, the off-duty officer’s gun fired twice, Maddrey said.
“The officer was struggling to retain the weapon. In this part of the investigation, we'll figure out later on exactly how it was fired and who had control of it. I don't have that information just yet,” Maddrey said.
After the gun went off, one of the brothers fled the scene. When uniformed officers arrived, they put both remaining men in handcuffs and later realized that one of them was a police officer.
Both men were taken to local hospitals, police said. The second brother was later also arrested when he walked into a hospital, the NYPD said. One of the brothers received a gunshot wound to the hand, while the other sustained hand injuries from what police believe is the broken window glass, according to authorities.
Police on Wednesday said that both brothers had several prior arrests.
Maddrey said the gunshot wound on the officer's left thigh is not life-threatening.
“I had an opportunity to visit our officer. He's in good spirits,” Maddrey said on Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re thankful that our brother is going to recover, but this incident highlights the dangerous environment on our streets, not just for police officers but for all New Yorkers,” Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association, the NYPD’s largest union, said in a statement. “These two repeat offenders didn’t think twice about attacking a cop and trying to grab his gun. What will happen if our dysfunctional justice system spits them back out onto the streets again?”
Police said no charges had yet been issued to anyone involved in the incident on Wednesday afternoon, and an investigation was ongoing.
This story has been updated with new information about video footage reviewed by Gothamist.