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Updated: June 5, 2024, 4:20 PM

Queens judge orders accused shooter of 2 NYPD officers from Long Island held without bail

By Anthony M. DeStefano

A 19-year-old Venezuelan man was held without bail Wednesday after he was formally charged with the shooting of two NYPD officers from Long Island earlier in the week.

Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, who officials said had entered the U.S. illegally through Eagle Pass, Texas, was ordered held by Queens Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Gershuny following the court proceeding.

Mata, who faces first and second-degree attempted murder charges and other offenses, was ordered to return to court Friday to learn of possible grand jury action in the case. Mata did not enter any plea to the charges.

Mata was wounded in the ankle during the June 3 confrontation with police in Elmhurst and attended the court proceeding via a video link with New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital where he was being treated. More than 75 NYPD officers, as well as officials from the Police Benevolent Association, packed the first floor arraignment court.

The Queens Defenders organization through a spokesman declined comment on the Mata case.

According to police, Mata was observed by NYPD officers Christopher Abeu, Richard Yarusso and other officers driving a motorcycle the wrong way early June 3 down Ditmars Boulevard near 90th Street. Police said Mata wasn’t wearing a helmet and was seen weaving his motorcycle onto the sidewalk with pedestrians present.

In a statement, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said that Yarusso and his sergeant exited their unmarked police vehicle and approached Mata who ditched his motorcycle and fled on foot.

Yarusso gave chase and Abreu followed in the unmarked vehicle, while the sergeant picked up the abandoned motorcycle and also used it to give chase, according to Katz.

Yarusso and Abreu ultimately caught up with Mata, who while struggling with the officers pulled out a loaded .380-caliber handgun from a chest pack, firing once and hitting Yarusso in his protective vest, then fired again, hitting Abreu in his upper right thigh, according to Katz.

The two cops, both 26, returned fire, striking Mata in his foot and ankle before placing him in handcuffs, officials said. The officers were treated in a hospital and released.

Abreu, who lives in Nassau County, and Yarusso who resides in Suffolk County, were part of an NYPD team investigating numerous motorcycle and scooter robbery patterns said to involve migrants primarily from Venezuela, according to Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny.

Outside the courthouse, PBA president Patrick Hendry called both Abreu and Yarusso devoted cops who were “incredibly skilled” having received police commendations for heroism. PBA officials said Abreu had received cop of the year in 115th Precinct. 

“The skill, the grit of these two police officers was the reason why they not only survived but were able to stop that individual from hurting anyone else,” said Hendry.