<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]> Copyright 2016 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:55:41 -0400 Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:55:41 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Partner of Cop Killed in 2014 Fire Testifies in Teen's Trial]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 23:17:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/marcell+dockery+coney+island+fire.jpg

An NYPD officer who was injured in a blaze sparked by a teen who set a mattress on fire in 2014 testified in the 16-year-old's murder trial Monday, describing her final moments with her partner who succumbed to smoke while trying to get people out of the burning building.

Rosa Rodriguez testified in the murder trial for Marcell Dockery, who allegedly confessed to setting a mattress on fire at a Coney Island apartment building on April 6, 2014.

A resulting blaze killed Rodriguez's partner, Dennis Guerra, and left her barely able to talk. During the trial Monday, she spoke in whispers as she described grabbing Guerra's shoulders as they looked for an exit.

Rodriguez and Guerra were both overcome by the smoke after they took an elevator to the 13th floor of the building on Surf Avenue to help residents get out.

"Can't breathe! Can't breathe!" Guerra's voice was heard in his call to dispatch. 

His family sobbed as they listened to the recordings during the trial. 

Guerra was pronounced dead shortly after the blaze; Rodriguez was in a coma for 44 days and had permanent voice and lung damage.


Dockery allegedly admitted to police that he lit the mattress on fire because he was bored and was charged with murder.

"He killed a heroic police officer, he disabled another heroic police officer," said PBA President Pat Lynch, who was at the trial. "And it broke the hearts of those family members and those police officers sitting in that courtroom."

His attorney, Jesse Young, has said that Dockery was coerced into giving oral and written confessions.

Young said it will be up to Dockery to decide if he wants to take the stand during the trial. 

Listen to the audio and video played in Dockery's trial above

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Exclusive: NYPD Hatchet Attack Survivors Talk to News 4]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 17:51:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000007039683_1200x675_440437827788.jpg The four officers who were attacked in Queens last October speak exclusively to News 4's Jonathan Dienst.]]> <![CDATA[NYC Man Gets 12 Years in Prison for Death of Transgender Woman]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 14:34:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/islan+nettles+death.jpg

A man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2013 death of a transgender woman will spend 12 years in prison.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. says James Dixon was sentenced Tuesday in the death of 21-year-old Islan Nettles. Prosecutors had recommended a 17-year sentence.

The victim was one of three transgender women who encountered a group of about seven young men on a Harlem street on Aug. 17, 2013.

Dixon flirted with Nettles before realizing she was transgender. Then he punched her in the face; she fell and her head hit the pavement.

He hit her some more before running away. She died five days later

<![CDATA[Driver Pleads Guilty in Crash That Killed NYPD Detective]]> Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:30:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nypd+detective+killed+wrong+way+crash.jpg

A 21-year-old man who drove the wrong way on a Westchester highway while drunk and high, hitting and killing an NYPD detective on his way to work, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges, prosecutors say.

Efren Moreano of Yonkers had a blood alcohol level of .16 percent and marijuana in his system when he drove his Honda Civic sedan onto the southbound side of the Sprain Brook Parkway at about 4 a.m. on Feb. 27, 2015, prosecutors said. 

He barreled down the highway at about 105 mph for about two miles, forcing drivers to swerve to avoid him, some off the road, authorities said. 

Mofreano then hit NYPD detective Paul Duncan's Honda Pilot head-on, killing him instantly. Duncan had been on his way to work at a police precinct in Queens, and was about two miles into his commute when he was struck, authorities said. 

The crash backed up traffic on the highway for hours. Duncan's wife was among the drivers stuck in the traffic as she tried to take their 13-year-old daughter to school in New York City.

She told NBC 4 New York at the time it took her two hours to get to the city that morning and didn't know the traffic was from the wreck that killed her husband of more than 20 years. 

Mofreano had to be extricated from his vehicle, and rescuers smelled alcohol and marijuana on him, prosecutors said. Toxicology tests later confirmed he was intoxicated and high. 

Mofreano pleaded guilty Monday to felony charges of second-degree manslaughter, first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors said. 

He faces a minimum of 1 to 3 years in prison to a maximum of 5 to 15 years when he's sentenced on June 1, prosecutors say. Mofreano remains behind bars.  

Duncan's widow, Rechelle Duncan, said the two were high school sweethearts married for more than 20 years. Paul had been planning to retire from the NYPD that year. 

"He was thoughtful, he was disciplined. He made really good dinners," Rechelle Duncan said of her husband. "He thought he was funny, a sharp dresser, a really good dad."

Duncan has been described as an advocate for higher education. 

<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: Unprecedented Look inside NYPD Compstat Meeting]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2016 22:33:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nypd+compstat+meeting+2.jpg

On a recent weekday morning, Inspector Carlos Valdez stood nervously behind a podium as more than 200 top NYPD cops grill him about a surge in robberies and burglaries in the 40th Precinct in the Bronx.

"Alright, Carlos, you know why you’re up there," Chief James O’Neill said. "A lot of things going on in the Four-o. Crime is definitely not headed in the right direction."

Valdez defended his work, and that of the detectives from the 40th precinct, who’re standing behind him.

"We’re up in robberies, assaults, burglaries and grand larcenies, but we’re also up in arrests for those index crimes," said Valdez, his voice cracking.

The brass doesn't let up.

"This is going on too long," snapped Commissioner Dermot Shea. "We need it fixed yesterday."

This was the exchange the I-Team witnessed in an unprecedented look at Compstat, a crime-fighting innovation that helped make New York City into America's safest big city. It requires police officers to not just question suspects, but each other. 

Compstat, a statistical system for tracking crime, was introduced by Commissioner Bill Bratton and Jack Maple in 1994, during Bratton’s first stint as head of the NYPD. Twenty-two years later, Bratton is once again the city's top cop, Compstat is still in use, and crime has fallen 75 percent -- a fact Bratton calls a "New York miracle." New York had 1,946 murders in 1993, or more than a five a day. It had 352 in 2015.

The system is based on tracking and stopping smaller crimes to stop bigger crimes, and to pinpoint hotspots where crimes are clustered. It has since been exported to other cities, like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, where Bratton also served as chief of police.

The NYPD recently allowed the I-Team unprecedented access to one of its weekly Compstat meetings at One Police Plaza in downtown Manhattan. Television monitors displaying stats, graphs and maps line the walls, above long tables filled with high-ranking officers.

At one end of the room sat the bosses, lobbing the questions, and at the other was a podium, where precinct commanders like Valdez take turns trying to answer them.

Valdez was assigned to the 40th precinct several months ago to address a spike in crime. Valdez put out extra officers to streets with jumps in robberies. He also met with detectives about unsolved cases big and small – from murders to burglary patterns.

"Analyzing data, deploying resources and vigorous follow-up, that is Compstat," Valdez said. "In the end, crime prevention is really the goal."

While the I-Team was visiting and recording his team at work in the Bronx, someone shot a 20-year-old man to death nearby – right next to a playground, in the middle of the afternoon.

In a separate incident several weeks ago, two police officers were fired on. Burglaries soared 400 percent in just a month. Valdez opened his case book to reveal more than 100 crimes that needed solving.

At the Compstat meeting, the interrogators press Valdez for minute details of the precinct’s crime pattern, all the way down to how many smartphones have been reported stolen.

“I want to say it’s nine,” said Valdez.

“How many have we obtained and put an alarm on those phones?” asked Shea.

“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” answered a member of the Four-o team.

O’Neill told Valdez and his team they could do better. "If you have a robbery problem, everybody up at that podium needs to be tuned in. I’m not sure I’m hearing that."

Valdez wasn't the only precinct commander to get grilled, though. Next up was Fausto Pichardo of the 43rd Precinct, also in the Bronx. Pichardo's precinct had no homicides to report -- but O'Neill was quick to point out the area had the highest volume of robberies in the city.

"We took six robberies in sector Eddie," Pichardo responded. "We immediately deployed a dedicated uniformed robbery order on each single platoon."

O'Neill also brought up up people who missed parole meetings.

"I'm sure they're causing problems elsewhere," O'Neill said.

Afterward, O'Neill and other NYPD brass work out a prescription for the precinct -- to target repeat offenders even harder.

"The major takeaway is to follow through," Pichardo said.

Pichardo said commanders are constantly adjusting anti-crime strategies whether or not police headquarters is calling for answers.

 "The problem is if we have to go in and tell them what we our plan is going to be – we have already failed," he said.  "We put the plan in place two weeks ago when we saw the trend was going up."

 But after the meeting, O’Neill told the I-Team the point is not to embarrass anyone, but to ensure success. “We’re not looking to throw curveballs at people … [we] just want to make sure their whole operation is efficient.”

“I know Carlos will turn the Four-o around,” said O’Neill.

Bratton, meanwhile, said the point is to hold commanders accountable. But he also praised Bronx commanders for the overall reduction in violence.

“We have never had a two month period beginning of a year with so few shootings,” he said.

O'Neill said he thinks the rigorous public interrogation that precinct commanders endure helps make a difference in crime in the city.

"There is direct accountability," he said. "I think that’s the genius of Compstat."

<![CDATA[Kerik Ally Arrested in Assault on FBI Informant in NYC Hotel]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 12:29:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/kerik+contractor+arrest.jpg

A construction executive with ties to disgraced ex-NYPD commissioner Bernie Kerik was arrested Wednesday, months after he allegedly assaulted an FBI informant who exposed corruption involving Kerik inside a midtown hotel. 

Frank DiTommaso was charged with felony assault in the confrontation with Larry Ray at the Hudson Hotel on Sept. 17, police said. He was released on his own recognizance after a court hearing overnight.

Ray, who was once close friends with Kerik and DiTommaso, told NBC 4 New York he believes it was an act of revenge.

He said DiTommaso followed him to the Hudson Hotel and approached his table. Ray stood up to say hello and went to shake his hand, and that's when DiTomasso allegedly unleashed a flurry of punches at him.

“I was knocked out. He kept hitting me in the temple area repeatedly,” said Ray, who suffered head trauma in the assault.

Ray believes the attack was premeditated, payback for his providing information to local and federal prosecutors about Kerik’s corruption and his links to DiTommaso.

“I think it is revenge on Frank’s part for the court case, for sure,” said Ray.

DiTommaso -- whose construction firm was alleged to have provided $165,000 in free apartment renovations to Kerik -- was arrested Wednesday on felony assault charges. As he was led out of the Midtown North stationhouse in handcuffs, DiTommaso did not respond to NBC 4 New York when asked whether the attack was revenge on Ray for his cooperation.

Ray, who served as best man at Kerik's wedding, has a criminal past but said there are witnesses and hotel security camera video now in the hands of police that confirm the allegations. Police said that is why they moved forward with felony assault counts Wednesday.

During the investigation into Kerik's corruption case, DiTommaso was arrested on perjury charges but later cleared. Kerik pleaded guilty to felony state and federal charges in 2009, including tax fraud and lying to the White House, and served three years in prison. 

Spokesmen for the FBI and US Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment about the alleged attack on a past witness.

Former federal prosecutor Brad Simon said the case may be bigger than just an assault.

“If there is evidence that they were trying to intimidate this witness or punish him for giving testimony against Bernie Kerik, then I think it rises to the level of obstruction of justice or witness tampering, federal offenses,” Simon said.

Kerik, who was released from federal prison in May 2013 and now sometimes serves as a commentator on television, declined to comment about the case.

DiTommaso is expected to appear at 100 Centre Street overnight on the assault counts. He is expected to deny any wrongdoing.

Ray said DiTommaso deserves jail time.

“The right thing happens eventually most of the time," he said.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Juror in NYPD Stairwell Shooting to Face Judge]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 19:58:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/AP_685503470466-officerconvicted.jpg

A judge is set to determine whether to overturn the conviction of a former NYPD officer who accidentally shot and killed a man in a darkened housing complex stairwell because of a juror failed to disclose that his father had been convicted of manslaughter.

A judge must determine why juror Michael Vargas didn't tell court officials about his father's conviction before being seated on the trial for Peter Liang, the rookie cop who accidentally fired a bullet that ricocheted off of a wall in a Brooklyn housing project and fatally hit Akai Gurley. Liang is set to be sentenced on Thursday. 

Liang's attorneys filed a motion seeking a new trial after Vargas, 62, told newspapers that his father served time in prison on manslaughter charges. During the selection process, Vargas responded, "No, no," when asked if any close relatives had been convicted of a crime.

Liang's attorneys said in the motion that Vargas' family history made him "a stranger who sneaks into the jury room." They declined to comment on the case Tuesday. 

Legal analyst Michael Bachner, of Bachner and Associates, said that the whole case could be overturned because of Vargas, calling the juror's omission a "huge concern for the prosecution and the quest for justice."

"I think there is an extremely strong argument for (the judge to throw out the case)," Bachner said. 

Vargas declined to comment to NBC 4 New York on Tuesday, but he told the Daily News last week that the defense was "grasping at straws."

"Do they really think I (convinced) 11 other jurors to convict him?" he told the newspaper. "They must be out of their minds."

A spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement after the motion was filed that "Peter Liang received a fair trial and we will respond to the motion in court." The office didn't offer further comments on Tuesday.

Thompson has already recommended that Liang receive probation and six months of house arrest when he's sentenced later this month. Though the charge carries no requirement for prison time, Liang faced up to 15 years in prison. Liang was fired from the police force upon his conviction in February. 

Thompson said that while Liang acted recklessly, he didn't intend to kill the victim, Akai Gurley.

The rookie officer had been patrolling the public housing high-rise with his gun drawn in 2014 when he said a sudden sound startled him and he fired. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley, 28, on a lower floor.

At the trial, prosecutors argued that Liang should not have had his gun out. They also said he did nothing to help Gurley as he lie dying on the floor. Liang's attorney had argued that Gurley's death was tragic, but was not a crime.

A second officer who was present at the shooting scene was also fired from the force over allegations that he didn't do enough to help Gurley.

While the judge does not need to follow Thompson's proposal at Liang's sentencing proceeding next month, sentencing recommendations from prosecutors typically hold significant weight in most criminal cases.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Plea Deal Reached Amid Toxic Dumping Trial]]> Wed, 30 Mar 2016 17:15:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/li+toxins.jpg

Prosecutors on Long Island say they've reached a plea deal with the suspects in a series of toxic dumpings at several sites in Suffolk County. 

The six people were in the midst of a criminal trial in connection with dumping of toxic materials at a park, a veterans' housing development and a wetlands area in the same town. The trial was in its sixth week in Central Islip. 

Defendant Tom Datre Jr., 42, has pleaded guilty to four felony counts of endangering the environment for dumping at a Brentwood park, the Islandia veterans housing project and two other sites. In exchange, he will be sentenced to one to three years in prison. He had been facing up to seven years in jail and millions of dollars in fines if he were convicted of the top counts. 

He'll also be held responsible for the cost of cleanup at the sites. 

A partner of Datre, Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling, has also pleaded guilty to criminal counts for his role in dumping debris at Clemente Town Park in Brentwood and at the Route 111 site in Central Islip, and will face six months in jail. 

Criminal charges against Datre's father, Tom Datre Sr., have been dropped. 

But Datre Jr.'s family-run  business, the 5 Brothers Farming Corp., has pleaded guilty to four felony dumping charges and will face fines. Datre Jr. and his father own four family-operated companies. 

At Datre Jr.'s arraignment in December 2014, prosecutors called him the "mastermind" of the scheme, alleging he brought material from New York City to the sites and "contaminated our county."

His lawyer, Kevin Kearon, said at the time his client did nothing wrong intentionally. At worst, Kearon said, this was "a poorly managed project."

Prosecutors had alleged each of the defendants knew about the dumping but did nothing to stop it in a "greed-filled" plot to line their own pockets.

Prosecutors said testing found hazardous materials like the pesticide DDT, chlordane, arsenic, cobalt, lead, zinc and petroleum byproducts at all of the dump sites, including the six-acre Deer Park wetlands, adjacent to a creek in the Great South Bay watershed, a Brentwood park, a Central Islip lot and an Islandia neighborhood for war veterans. Asbestos was found at all sites but the veterans' home.

The original site was Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, where tens of thousands of tons of material were trucked in for a park improvement project. Then, the vacant lot on Route 111 was discovered and was "very similar in appearance" to what was found at the park, Spota said.

At the Islandia location, the homes were sold to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The project broke ground last year and veterans moved in early this year. The group that built the homes, Long Island Builders Institute, said the three sites were linked by the same contractor.

<![CDATA[ATM Skimming-Device Suspects Linked to 21 More Thefts: NYPD]]> Fri, 18 Mar 2016 17:26:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bank+skimming+device+suspects+more.jpg

The two men wanted for stealing bank information from ATM customers in Manhattan last fall have now been linked to an additional 21 incidents across the Upper East Side, and police are still looking for the suspects. 

Police first alerted the public about the two men in January: the alleged thieves attached skimming devices to an ATM at a CVS at 420 Fifth Ave. in midtown and a Bank of America at 21 E. 96th St. in Carnegie Hill last fall, then duplicated debit cards to withdraw money from the victims' accounts at banks in Queens, police said. 

The six thefts originally linked to the men took place from October through December, with the stolen amounts ranging from $980 to $1,640. 

Now police say the men are suspected of 21 more skimming-device thefts from last August through December. Several of the victims saw multiple withdrawals from or unauthorized transactions on their accounts.

The withdrawals ranged from $200 to over $1,100. 

The surveillance photos were taken from the Queens banks where the suspects made the withdrawals, police said. 

In Janury, Bank of America told NBC 4 New York it makes sure customers are notified of any unusual activitiy on their accounts. Customers aren't charged if their accounts are stolen, the bank said.

Experts have advised ATM customers to cover the keypad when entering their PIN codes and to jiggle the card reader to make sure there's no skimming device. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

<![CDATA[NYC Martial Arts Instructor Arrested on Sex Abuse Charges]]> Tue, 15 Mar 2016 00:23:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/united+tae+kwon+do.jpg

A New York City martial arts instructor has been charged with sex abuse and forcible touching in his interactions with four girls in his classes at a Queens studio over the course of nearly a year, prosecutors say. 

The 26-year-old instructor at United Tae Kwon Doe in Corona is accused of inappropriately touching four of his students, two 12-year-olds and two 14-year-olds, multiple times between May 2015 through Feb. 26 of this year, the Queens District Attorney's office says. 

"As a martial arts instructor the defendant was supposed to train his students to protect themselves from unwanted advances," District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement Monday. "Instead he is accused of taking advantage of his teaching position to touch his students in inappopriate ways." 

Lorenzo Ramos of Elmhurst apporached each of the alleged victims individually, hugging them, picking them up or groping them, according to prosecutors. In one case, he allegedly rubbed himself against one of the 12-year-old girls, and in another, allegedly rubbed his hand up and down the side of the body of a 14-year-old girl. 

He also allegedly offered money to three of the girls, saying in one instance, "Don't say anything because both of us will be killed."

The girls began speaking to one another and voiced their concerns about Ramos to the owners of the martial arts studio, who fired him, authorities said. When Ramos was fired, one of the victims told her mother, who called police. 

Ramos was arraigned Friday on multiple counts of sexual abuse, forcible touching, sexual harassment, child endangerment and harassment. He's being held on $31,000 bail and is next scheduled to appear in court April 1. 

His attorney Edward Sapone said in a statement to NBC 4 New York that Ramos has been a karate instructor for seven years and has worked with hundreds of students of all ages. 

"His boss trusted him so much that when his when his boss added a location to the karate studio, he took Mr. Ramos with him." said Sapone. "Before this, he's never once been accused of impropriety. He vehemently maintains his innocence."

Parents at the school Monday had no idea of the allegations against Ramos. The school has promised to update parents on the situation. 

<![CDATA[Arrest in Elderly Woman's Stabbing Death in NJ]]> Sat, 12 Mar 2016 17:31:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/216*120/21216stabbed.jpg

A man has been arrested in the death of an elderly grandmother fatally stabbed in Jersey City last month, prosecutors say.

Jeffery Harley, 50, is charged with murder in connection with the death of 81-year-old Lucila Cardenas-Viejo, who was found with multiple stab wounds on Feb. 7 in her Lexington Avenue home, said Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez on Saturday.

Authorities had released surveillance video of a man knocking on her doors hours before she was found dead.

On Friday, NBC 4 New York exclusively captured police executing a search warrant at a home across from where Cardenas-Viejo lived. Earlier in the evening, neighbors said detectives arrested Harley, who lives there -- but police have not said if he is the man seen in the video.

Neighbors were skeptical.

"It's hard to believe. I can't believe that's the guy. The picture I saw in the video doesn't look like the person they arrested," said neighbor Benny Ortiz.

"I guess we see what happens when the evidence comes up, but I can't see that right now, I really can't," said Joseph Brown, another neighbor.

Harley was charged on Friday with murder and several counts of robbery, burglary and possession of a weapon. He was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

Photo Credit: Hudson County Prosecutor's Office]]>
<![CDATA[NYPD Officers Shot on Patrol: It's a 'Miracle' We Survived]]> Thu, 03 Mar 2016 21:26:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/espeut+cruz+itv+2.jpg

The two NYPD officers shot at point-blank range while patrolling a Bronx housing project stairwell are speaking for the first time about the harrowing moments before and after the shooting in an exclusive interview with NBC 4 New York, saying it's a miracle they survived.

"I can’t believe I am sitting here today. It really is nothing short of a miracle," said Officer Patrick Espeut, who was shot in the face.

Espeut and his partner Diara Cruz, along with a third officer, were conducting a vertical patrol inside the Melrose Houses on Feb. 3 when they encountered the gunman and began questioning him. 

He fired in an instant.

"It all happened so fast,” said Espeut, 29. “The only images I remember were him pulling the gun and the flash of the muzzle going off.”

Espeut was hit in the face, the bullet traveling through his nose and then ricocheting off bone and exiting out the side of his skull -- without striking his brain.

Cruz, 24, was hit in the abdomen just below her bulletproof vest. She didn't even realize she'd been shot because she was busy trying to push a second civilian in the stairwell out of the line of fire.

When the firing stopped, Cruz said the man told her, "You know you are bleeding."

"That’s when I realized I had been shot," she said.

The officers had been patrolling the Melrose Hosues because of a string of recent nighttime robberies. In the stairwell, Cruz heard two men talking one flight up, and she and officer Espeut approached.

"I asked them for IDs. They were compliant," she said.

Malik Chavis was one of the two men drinking beer in the stairwell. His ID showed a different address, and he told the officers he was staying with his girlfriend in a 7th-floor apartment. The officers said they wanted to go with him to the apartment to verify he had a right to be in the building.

As they walked up the stairs, Cruz noticed Chavis’s hands were in his waistband.

"I noticed he was walking up the stairs funny. His hand was in the waistband so when we got to the top, I told him to remove his hands," Cruz said.

"At that moment, he fired," she said.

Espeut said he was knocked to the ground by the force of the first shot and he blacked out as Cruz radioed for help.

Meanwhile, Chavis, who had 12 prior arrests, fled to his girlfriend's apartment, where he fatally shot himself, shouting, "I just shot a cop, I'm not going back to jail," witnesses later told police.

Espeut quickly regained consciousness and noticed the blood pouring from his face and the side of his head.

"I remember keeping pressure on my head to limit the bleeding. I walked down the steps. I didn’t know what to think," Espeut said. "I didn’t want to die."

Then he saw his injured partner Cruz lying in the stairwell. Each officer became concerned seeing the bullet wounds the other had suffered.

"I did not know where she was shot but I was worried she could bleed out," Espeut said.

In the emergency room, they were next to each other for a short time but they told each other they would be OK.

"It’s amazing. It could have been bad," Cruz said. "We got lucky."

The two officers have been on the job two years. Cruz, a Bronx native, is the first in her family to become a police officer and is now pursuing a criminal justice degree at John Jay College. The day she was sworn in as an officer at Madison Square Garden was "a dream come true."

 "I always wanted to become a police officer for as long as I can remember," she said. "There was always something about wanting to help people." 

Espeut, who's originally from Putnam County and also serves in the military, said he joined the NYPD to try to make a difference.

"I'm a little older, I've had a lot of different jobs and I've always had the same problem where it's tough to care about certain jobs," he said. "I wanted a job where I would feel some sort of fulfillment at the end of the day, where I felt like I was doing something good with my life and for other people."

Espeut and Cruz began working together in the Bronx in August 2015. 

"There's a lot of crime, but there's also a lot of great people there and they need people to look out for them. So I consider myself lucky to have been placed in housing in the Bronx," he said. 

Both officers were released from the hospital, Espeut one day after the shooting. Cruz was released a week later. Espeut returned to the hospital to wheel his partner out as fellow officers cheered.

Recovery for both officers is ongoing. Cruz said she is getting stronger each day after the bullet tore through her midsection and the surgery that followed. Espeut still suffers from head pain, but he knows he is lucky the bullet did not hit any major artery or any part of his brain.

Even though it was a close call, both officers say they are eager to get back to work.

"I definitely believe there was some higher power there that night looking out for both of us. That’s the only explanation that the two of us can be sitting here talking to you as well as we are," Espeut said.

<![CDATA[Queens Mosque Instructor Arrested in Sex Abuse of Girl, 9: DA]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:10:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/queens+mosque+sex+abuse+arrest.jpg

A sex abuse prevention workshop conducted at a New York City public school prompted a 9-year-old girl to report an alleged case of sex abuse by her religious instructor, resulting in the arrest of the 46-year-old man, prosecutors said. 

The suspect, an after-school instructor at the Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque in East Elmhurst, Queens, is accused of groping the girl on two different occasions while she was attending the program between November 2015 and February 2016, the Queens District Attorney's office said. 

He allegedly said to her, "You are a good girl," as he touched her, prosecutors said.

When a sex abuse prevention workshop using puppets was held at the girl's school, the girl told the workshop instructor what allegedly happened. 

After investigation, authorities arrested the suspect on sex abuse and child endangerment charges. He was awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Drone Hits Empire State Building: NYPD]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:41:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/drone+suspect+empire+state+building.jpg

A small drone crashed into the 40th floor of the Empire State Building Thursday night and then fell to a 35th floor landing, authorities said. 

Police said a New Jersey man was flying the drone in an attempt to take pictures and apparently lost control of the aircraft.

Investigators said Sean Nivin Riddle was arrested at the scene and is expected to face criminal charges. He was being questioned by officers at the Midtown South police precinct.

Right after the crash, Riddle apparently wrote on his own Twitter feed: “filming w/ drone, now its stuck on the empire state building....w/security.”

The crash brought a significant police and FBI response to the landmark at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street as a precaution. Investigators said that they do not believe the crash was intentional.

No one was hurt.

Riddle did not immediately respond to requests from NBC 4 New York seeking comment. 

Photo Credit: File.
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<![CDATA[Police Warn Against Subway Snoozing, Tout Record-Low Crime ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 06:30:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/subway-sleeping.jpg

Despite a spate of high-profile subway crimes including slashings that garnered headlines, the first month of 2016 was the safest since the NYPD began keeping records, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday.

But authorities still offered a warning to subway snoozers: "Subways are not for sleeping,"  Bratton said.

The NYPD will add more officers to subway patrols and those cops will wake riders who take naps on the subway, Bratton said. The commissioner says he realizes people are tired when they get off work. But he says subway snoozing puts riders at a higher risk of sexual assault and pickpocketing.

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But it's not enough to stay alert, according to a 19-year-old man who was violently robbed on the A train Tuesday night.

The man named Nicholas, who did not want to show his face out of concerns for his safety, was riding an empty A train car and approaching Fulton Street when five men walked into his subway car.

"They put a knife to my neck. And I kind of make the move out of the way, and I was like, take whatever you want and just leave my ID," he told NBC 4 New York Wednesday. "The guy's like pushing back the knife in his pocket and he just choked me and punched me in the face."

Nick said he was knocked out cold and he woke up half an hour later on the train, at the 190th Street station. He ran upstairs to the station and reported the incident to police. 

His advice for riders is to surround themselves with other people and stay in cars occupied by other straphangers.

"You have to be careful out there, because you never know what could happen, especially in the night," he said. 

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On Thursday morning police said a woman went to the hospital Wednesday night after she was poked in the arm by a man who was next to her at the 49th Street subway station on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. She said she felt a poke on her right shoulder just before 6:30 p.m. When she went home, she and her husband discovered a small wound. A doctor at Mt. Sinai Hospital said that it may be a puncture wound possibly caused by a needle prick. 

And on Wednesday, police announced they were looking for suspects in two other violent subway attacks, one in which a man allegedly slashed a 3 train rider over the left eye in Harlem Sunday and another in which a robber slashed one victim in the hand on the C train and punched another on the 4 train.

A man said he woke up on the C train Tuesday morning to find a man with bright red hair standing over him with a razor. The victim said his jeans had been cut around his left pocket in an attempted robbery. He tried to restrain the suspect but was punched in the face. The suspect fled and is still on the loose. 

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Still the mayor and commissioners were touting crimes stats at record low.  NYPD officials said there were 22 homicides in January — down from 40 for the same time period in 2015. Shootings also dropped in the city by 34 percent, de Blasio said.

By comparison, there were 51 homicides in Chicago in January. That's more than double New York’s January tally even though that city's population of about 2.7 million residents is less than one-third that of New York City's 8.4 million inhabitants.

There were 352 homicides in New York City in 2015. 

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But there was one category where a notable increase was tallied: felony assaults, driven, in part, by an uptick in attacks on police officers and straphangers in the subway system.

There were a total of 251 assaults in the city in January, an 18 percent increase, authorities said.

There were 37 assaults in the subway system, 12 of which were assaults on police officers, NYPD Transit Bureau Chief Joseph Fox said.

There were 10 slashings and stabbings on subway riders, one of which was a completely random attack, Fox said. The nine other attacks were either robberies or the result of a dispute, according to Fox.    

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Photo Credit: File -- Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Mexican Heroin Cartel Suspects Arrested in Hotel Raid: Officials]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:32:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/heroin+raid+nj+hotel.jpg

Four suspected associates of a Mexican heroin cartel were arrested at Secaucus, New Jersey hotel Tuesday as they were allegedly moving drugs through the state.

Drug Enforcement Administration officials and New Jersey State Police said 31 kilograms of heroin was seized. Photos released by law enforcement officials show some of the drugs were being carried in gym bags.

The drug task force raided a room at the Extended Stay Hotel where the suspects were allegedly hiding out. NYPD officers and New York State Police assisted in the investigation.

The raid come less than a week after 100 pounds of heroin was seized in the back of a pick-up truck in Queens.

Oscar Renen Felix, John Ulloa, Anthony Ross Koon and Alan Martin Alderman are expected to appear in court late Tuesday on state drug conspiracy charges, officials said.

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Bill Bratton Says NYPD Investigated 3 ISIS-Inspired Terror Plots in 2015]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:20:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-bill-bratton-james-blake-st.jpg

The NYPD’s top cop told U.S. senators Tuesday the threat of terrorism is the greatest it’s been since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, adding that the department uncovered three terror threats inspired by ISIS in the last year.

Commissioner Bill Bratton outlined the department’s counter-terrorism response to new threats during a Senate homeland security committee hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

He said New York City has been the “nexus or target” of more terror plots than any other city in America – including four plots in less than two years.

“The frontline response to terrorism in America is more pressing than any time since 9/11,” he said.

He said the department has been shifting its tactics in the last two years amid ISIS-inspired “lone wolf” attacks to either behead people, bomb public events or attack police officers.

He told the senators the department has been beefing up patrols, investing in technology for officers, and working with federal law enforcement agencies to sniff out plots and combat terror.

“No other city faces the threat faced by New York City, and no other city has invested so much— in dollars, personnel, or partnership—to counter that threat,” he said.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[$14M of Heroin Found Stuffed in Truck Axles in Queens]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 21:20:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/heroin+pickup+truck+queens.jpg

Authorities say they seized $14 million worth of heroin during a traffic stop in Queens Tuesday night.

Drug investigators were in the area of Northern Boulevard and 84th Street in Elmhurst when they saw two pickup trucks driving in tandem, with a hitch trailer attached, law enforcement officials said.

The trucks had North Carolina license plates and were driving very slowly, and kept circling around a few blocks. 

Noticing the trailer's hitch was unregistered and the back tail light was out, the investigators pulled over the trucks, and officers found 48 kilograms of heroin pressed and concealed in the axle and in drive shaft parts in the bed of the truck, according to the officials.

Two people were arrested on a variety of drug charges. They're expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, authorities said.

The New York Drug Enforcement Task Force consists of the NYPD, DEA and state special narcotics prosecutors.

<![CDATA[Man Kills Girlfriend, Wounds Downstairs Neighbor in Shootings: NYPD]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 00:56:05 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Suspect-Shooting-Inset.jpg

Two women were shot, one fatally, in Queens Tuesday morning in what police say may have stemmed from some sort of domestic dispute. 

The NYPD responded to a call at about 11 a.m. at an apartment building on Beach 32nd Street and found a 51-year-old woman with a gunshot wound to the hand in the lobby of the building.

They later found a 36-year-old Joann Gravette dead inside an 11th floor apartment in the building with a gunshot wound to the body. 

Police say that the suspected shooter, 29-year-old Tyquan Long, is the estranged boyfriend of Gravette. 

Authorities say he shot Gravette first, then went to the 51-year-old's apartment downstairs. He shot the woman because he thought Gravette was having an affair with the elder woman's son.

Gravette's mother, Yolanda Gravette, said that Long and her daughter dated for five years and that he was always jealous of her daughter. 

After the shooting, authorities say he called a third person, telling him "I'm gunning for you."

Authorities say that man is being protected.

Long, who has been arrested 11 times, is still at large and is being sought, authorities say. One man said he saw him boarding a train earlier in the day. 

Police held a news conference Wednesday evening while investigators worked the 11th floor crime scene. 

"He has a considerable arrest record — weapons charges and assault," NYPD Inspector Michael Kemper said. 

His most recent assault was last year against his now-murdered girlfriend. 

<![CDATA[Man Named in Anonymous Cop Shooting Tip Won't Be Charged]]> Thu, 21 Jan 2016 10:11:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/generic+police+car+2+vg.jpg

A man who an anonymous tipster claimed had pledged his allegiance to ISIS and was planning to shoot police officers in New York and Philadelphia has turned himself in to police, law enforcement sources told NBC 4 New York. 

The man turned himself in at a Bronx police precinct Wednesday afternoon and was questioned by detectives, sources said. He was not charged with any crime, but was being held Thursday for allegedly violating his parole. 

The NYPD had issued an alert to officers on Wednesday about the anonymous tip called in to a detective squad about a local man who may be armed and prepared to shoot a cop in New York City. Police in Philadelphia also received a similar threat.

According to authorities, the suspect mentioned by the New York City tipster had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Both calls were traced to upper Manhattan, officials say.

Patrick Lynch, the president of the NYPD's rank-and-file union, reminded police to be on alert for potential threats.

"New York City police officers recognize that they are always a potential target for terrorists and political extremists," Lynch said. "The PBA is reminding all of our members to be alert at all times, back each other up and to take all necessary precautions when responding to jobs."

The threat comes just weeks after a cop in Philadelphia was shot three times by a man who allegedly pledged to ISIS. The cop, Jesse Hartnett, was wounded but was able to shoot the alleged gunman, Edward Archer.

And in 2014, a man hacked at two cops with a hatchet in Queens, critically injuring one. The attack was considered an act of terror, and FBI Director James Comey said that the suspect, Zale Thompson, appeared to have sought "inspiration from foreign terrorist sources" including ISIS.

Also that year, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, the man who killed NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, posted to Instagram that he was "putting Wings on Pigs" before the Brooklyn shooting. 

-- Jonathan Dienst contributed to this story. 

Photo Credit: Valeria Gonzalez/NBC 4 New York]]>