The NYPD detective who went into a Greenwich Village smoke shop on a tip that an accused child molester on the run for two years was working there and was shot, along with two U.S. Marshals, when gunfire erupted as the officers tried to apprehend the suspect, was released from the hospital Wednesday.
Flanked by uniformed officers, detective Mario Muniz left Bellevue Hospital in a wheelchair around noon, about a day after the two marshals injured in the gunfight were released.
Muniz had the most severe injuries of the three agents: one bullet hit his stomach, crossing from the left side to the right side of the abdomen, according to doctors. A second and a third bullet fired toward his chest were stopped by a vest.
"No question that vest was life-saving gear," said Dr. Spiros Frangos.
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, speaking outside Bellevue, said that once Muniz goes home to recuperate, "The reality of what could have happened will set in."
Palladino added, "I'm going to renew my message to all the criminals in this city: It's not open season on these detectives ... because our mission is to get the job done."
The fugitive suspect, Charles Mozdir, was killed in the Monday afternoon shootout in Smoking Culture on West Fourth Street. Muniz went in to visually confirm the suspect was there and alone, and when he returned with the marshals to make an arrest, Mozdir opened fire with a .32-caliber revolver, police say.
Muniz was shot twice in the stomach below his bulletproof vest. One marshal was shot in the leg and the other was hit in the elbow.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Muniz's vest may have saved his life.
Mozdir had been accused of sexually assaulting a boy he babysat in Coronado, California, near San Diego. The 32-year-old was recently profiled on "The Hunt with John Walsh," a CNN show similar to "America's Most Wanted."
Mozdir was wanted on a $1 million warrant. He was charged with multiple counts of committing forcible lewd acts on a child and attempting to dissuade a witness. He skipped an April court appearance in California and his car was found in Georgia two months later.
The trail went cold after that until officers got a phone call from a woman in Florida who is part owner of Mozdir's black Labrador retriever, law enforcement sources told NBC 4 New York.
His weapon was recovered at the scene. Mozdir had 20 more rounds in his pockets, police said.
A neighbor in the Alphabet City area where Mozdir resided said she sometimes ran into him while walking her dogs with her daughter.
He "never made eye contact," said Natasha Callapally, and was "really creepy, really weird."
-- Marc Santia contributed to this report