By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, The New York TImes
New York City police shot and seriously wounded a man early Friday
during an undercover drug buy on a Harlem street corner, firing 21
shots, police officials said.
An undercover detective and a backup detective - known in police
parlance as a ghost - and two passing uniformed officers who heard
the detectives' shots all fired at the man around 1:40 a.m. at West
120th Street and Lenox Avenue, several senior police officials said.
All fired, the officials said, because they believed that the man had
But no gun was recovered, and late yesterday afternoon two police
officials said the man, who has not yet been identified, might have
been bluffing the undercover detective, reaching into his waistband
and pulling his hand out as if he had a pistol. One civilian witness
told detectives investigating the shooting that the undercover and
backup detectives both yelled, "Drop it!" at the man several times
before they fired, and that the man appeared to have something in his
hand, one of the officials said. No drugs were recovered from the
The drug buy - a routine transaction that undercover detectives
conduct daily around the city - went bad after the undercover
detective paid the man $15 for three small vials of crack cocaine and
was told to go around the corner to retrieve the crack, the officials
When the undercover detective refused, the two men argued, and a
third man who was with the suspect walked away, heading south on
Lenox Avenue, the official said. The suspect then reached into his
waistband, and the detective fired, initially from close range, then
fleeing behind a car across the street, where he fired again, the
Two officers from the 25th Precinct, who were in a patrol car with a
sergeant transporting DNA evidence from an earlier crime, heard the
shots and pulled up seconds later, officials said.
"The uniformed officers, who happened to be one block away, heard the
shots being fired," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said
yesterday. "They responded. It's reported that they see an individual
with a gun turn toward them, they also fired."
One police official said the sergeant who was accompanying the
uniformed officers did not fire his weapon because the two officers
were between him and the suspect. But the sergeant told investigators
he wanted to fire because he saw muzzle flashes coming from the
direction of the suspect. He may have seen the reflection of the
officers' muzzle flashes in the windows of nearby cars, officials
Commissioner Kelly, speaking at a plaque dedication yesterday
afternoon at the 113th Precinct station house in Queens, said the
conduct of the officers involved in the shooting was under review.
"The investigation surrounding the details of the shooting is still
going forward," he said. Mr. Kelly said none of the officers had been
involved in previous shootings.
The undercover detective fired 11 shots, emptying his 9-millimeter
Glock pistol, and his backup investigator fired once, the police
said. One of the uniformed officers fired four shots, and the other
fired five, the police said.
The Police Department would not release the names of the officers and
the detectives involved. The detectives, who were assigned to
Manhattan North Narcotics, had worked undercover for several years, a
person familiar with their careers said.
Yesterday afternoon, workers from the city's Department of
Environmental Protection and police officers from the Emergency
Service Unit searched for a gun in a sewer drain near where the
wounded man collapsed, scooping out the muck and raking through it,
but no weapon was found. The $15 that the undercover detective had
passed to the suspect was found near the sewer grate, smeared with
blood, an official said.
It is unclear how many of the 21 shots that were fired hit the man,
but he has eight bullet wounds in his legs and torso, some of which
may be exit wounds, a police official said. The man was taken to St.
Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was in stable condition
but in danger of losing a leg, the police said. A spokesman for the
hospital would not comment, citing federal privacy rules.
The gunshots ripped into several cars that were parked along the tidy
block of historic brownstones, and the police later towed some of
them to the precinct as part of the investigation. One car, a green
Kia sedan, remained parked on the street, its windows shattered,
apparently by the gunshots. Bullet marks also left gouges on a brick
wall of one newly renovated building.
A security camera at a cafe across the street from the shooting
captured part of the events that led up to and followed the shooting,
an official said, but the shooting itself occurred outside the
camera's view was not recorded. The police seized the hard drive of a
computer in the cafe that had stored the images recorded by the
camera, a cafe employee said.
While residents of 120th Street described the corner where the
shooting occurred as a quiet one, they said drug sellers could be
found to the north and south along Lenox Avenue, and one woman on her
way to work yesterday morning complained about what she said was an
increasing number of drug-related incidents in the neighborhood.