The New York City Department of Correction appears to have accidentally released a murder suspect awaiting trial, and the NYPD says they're actively searching for him.
Christopher Buggs, 26, was arrested in Feb. 2018 on charges of second-degree murder. Authorities alleged he was responsible for the death of Ernest Brownlee, 55, who was shot in front of a Throop Avenue deli in Bed-Stuy.
Buggs sat in custody for three years, until he was "inadvertently released" due to a clerical error on Monday, police said. Court records indicate he was next due for a hearing in June on the murder charges.
Department of Correction online inmate records also show Buggs' status as "Released." He had been held in the Otis Bantum facility on Rikers Island. It appeared Buggs was released on an unrelated contempt of court finding, with Rikers staff not realizing he should still be locked up for his alleged role in the murder case.
"We are aware of this incident and a full investigation into how this happened is underway. Right now we are working with our law enforcement partners to return this individual to custody," Peter Thorne, the department's deputy commissioner of public information, said in a statement.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in on the apparent mistake as well, saying that the city is looking to put "additional safeguards in place to make sure this never happens again. That's very frustrating." The mayor said he's confident Buggs will be re-apprehended soon.
"If he's out, ain't no telling where he is at or what is on his mind," said Isaac Mickens, a friend and advocate for the widow of Brownlee. "As of right now, it is more or less like a cat and mouse game. We're just waiting. I am waiting for them to catch the man."
Buggs' mugshot shows him with a scar on his face and a dollar sign tattoo on his neck.