An armed robbery call nearly turned deadly for two New York police officers, leading to an exchange of gunfire that ended with the officers hospitalized, a manhunt and fresh scrutiny surrounding the United States’ most populated city — specifically, about the safety of police on the street.
The wounded officers spent Tuesday morning in the Bronx’s St. Barnabas Hospital. One of them, 30-year-old Andrew Dossi, is in critical condition following surgery after being shot in the arm and lower back, according to police. The other, 38-year-old Aliro Pellerano, is in stable condition with gunshot wounds to the chest and arm.
“This is another indicator of the dangers our officers face in the line of duty,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has found himself at odds with some in his police force in recent weeks. “Thank God, these officers will recover.”
Authorities, meanwhile, have yet to definitively track down those responsible.
They located the white Camaro that two suspects carjacked a block from the shooting, but no one was inside.
A $12,000 reward is being offered for a bearded man — pictured in a surveillance video from inside a take-out Chinese restaurant moments before the shooting — who, police say, shot at the officers.
The call about an armed robbery at a Bronx grocery store came in around 10:30 p.m. Monday, as five plainclothes officers were coming off their shift.
Rather than going home, the police went to look for the criminals — something that de Blasio described as “extraordinarily brave and … part of their commitment.”
They spotted two men who were the suspected robbers, based on descriptions called in to police. Two officers approached one of the suspects on the street.
The other went inside a Chinese restaurant. Surveillance video, released by police, shows him at the counter, speaking to a person behind a window. The man then abruptly turns around, pulls out a gun and charges out of the take-out establishment with it pointed forward.
Officers returned fire, with two of them shot in the exchange. Police Commissioner William Bratton said that one of the suspects may have been struck as well.
Still, both managed to get away — fleeing on foot for one block and then carjacking the Camaro.
That car was later found abandoned, along with a black revolver. As of Tuesday morning, the two suspects were — as far as what police were saying, definitively — still at large.
Sometime after the shooting, a man checked himself into an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the back. Police are trying to see if he is connected to the shooting, and they aren’t calling him a suspect.
The incident happened just south of Fordham University, an area hardly unfamiliar to violent crime. John Cardillo, who patrolled the area when he was a police officer, called it “a rough neighborhood in the ’90s, and it still is today… (It had and has) armed bad guys with the propensity to shoot someone.”
No one has detailed the suspects’ motives, both for the robbery and shooting at police. But the incident has gotten heightened attention given when it happened — at a time of large-scale anti-police protests after a grand jury decided not to indict a white New York police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an African-American man.
Even if it’s too early to tie it to this incident, experts in the law enforcement community have expressed concerns that such sentiment — views supported in some respects, according to some police, by Mayor de Blasio — will encourage violence against police. That’s what happened, they say, when Ismaaiyl Brinsley fatally ambushed NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu last month as they sat in their patrol car.
“When the rhetoric turns anti-police, the police are concerned that people on the street, it’s going to increase the already existent lack of respect in certain segments of the society — including armed robbers … and other violent criminals,” said CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director.
De Blasio has become a focal point for supporters of law enforcement, with some police even turning their backs on him at Ramos’ and Liu’s funerals because of their perception that he’s been overly supportive of protesters and critical of police.
“The relationship is toxic (and) almost irretrievable in some respects,” CNN political commentator Errol Louis said of the mayor-police dynamic. “… This is not a good atmosphere.”