By TOM HAYS
The Associated Press
NEW YORK- Police on Tuesday defended the shooting of a man at a summer cookout, saying a patrolman justifiably opened fire when the victim ambushed officers with what they described as a deadly weapon - a metal scooter.
Before the gunfire erupted Monday night, the shooter and his partner were struck from behind with "what I would call a lethal weapon," police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference. "I think it's reasonable to say they were in fear of serious injury, perhaps even death."
The victim, 28-year-old Robert Ramirez, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition with a chest wound. His family responded with anger, saying he was only trying to protect his stepfather during a chaotic confrontation with the police officers.
"They shot my son! They shot my son for nothing!" the stepfather, Jose Morales, in handcuffs, cried out following the shooting in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Michael Ramirez said of his nephew, "His stepfather brought him up, and they're close."
Police officials released a 911 tape of a call from a woman who witnessed the shooting from her window. She frantically recounted how the victim "took one of the kid's scooters" and "beat the cop across the back."
The incident began at about 7:45 p.m. Two patrol officers, after earlier warning a disc jockey at the cookout outside a housing project to turn down his music, started to write him a noise complaint ticket.
Morales, while "intoxicated, belligerent and muttering obscenities," tried to intervene, Kelly said.
During an ensuing struggle, he resisted arrest by clinging to a bench, police said.
The officers beat Morales' hands with a metal baton to try to free him from the bench, prompting Ramirez to approach and "without warning" hit each officer twice in the back and head with the scooter, Kelly said.
When Ramirez continued to swing the scooter at the officers, backing them into a fence, one of the officers fired a round at close range, he said.
"At this juncture, this shooting appears to be justified," he said.
Ramirez was charged with first-degree assault. Morales was arrested on charges of obstructing police and resisting arrest.
The officers were treated for minor injuries.