A chaotic scene unfolded on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge Sunday afternoon that left a state trooper hospitalized, suspected car thieves in custody and major headaches for holiday weekend travelers.
The chain of events reportedly started one day earlier in the Bronx, where two NYPD officials said a victim reported the theft of his 2021 Acura sedan. On Sunday, the owner told police he used a tracking app and followed his car to the RFK Bridge.
It was on the bridge that Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority officials spotted the stolen vehicle and notified New York State Police, the NYPD officials said. Authorities converged on the car, prompting its driver to reverse and strike one of the troopers in pursuit.
NYSP said the trooper was hit around 1 p.m. on the Manhattan span of the bridge. The trooper suffered minor injuries and was taken to Elmhurst Hospital.
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One woman stuck in the bridge traffic said the incident unfolded in front of her.
"There was a gray car, [the driver] wouldn’t roll down his windows. The police officer in a two truck was knocking on the window and he wouldn't roll down the window," the witness said. "When the windows were finally down, the cop grabbed him by the neck and the driver took off, did a zig-zag and hit all the other cars."
In the driver's attempt to flee the responding officers, the NYPD officials with direct knowledge of the investigation said multiple cars were struck and a trooper opened fire on the suspects. No one was struck by any of the gunfire.
The officials said the driver was able to make it off the bridge and into Harlem where police were able to catch up to the stolen vehicle and take two people, a 21-year-old driver and a 17-year-old passenger, into custody. Police say an imitation gun was also recovered.
The older suspect was later identified as Josue Viorato. He was arrested earlier this month for grand larceny of a BMW, according to a criminal complaint. Viorato was charged Sunday with a number of charges including unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, reckless endangerment, vehicular assault and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
The other suspect, who was not identified due to his age, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, possession of an imitation firearm, obstruction of governmental administration and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
The shooting investigation had significant portions of the bridge closed and caused major backups on what's expected to be a busy post-Thanksgiving travel day.
Hundreds of cars were stopped before the bridge shortly after police took control of the scene shortly after 1 p.m. Two lanes were closed in both directions of the bridge for hours until it reopened at midnight.