NYPD rookie praised for handling of gunman

By Herbert Lowe, Staff Writer

A rookie cop and a precinct commander teamed up to arrest two men suspected of killing an apparent robbery victim in a shooting witnessed by the rookie in Brooklyn early yesterday, police said.

On a day when hundreds of people gathered to protest last weekend's fatal police shooting in Queens, police officials praised the rookie officer, Tomas Castro, for how he handled himself while standing a few feet from a man he had just seen shoot someone.

"He showed remarkable calm and professionalism under the circumstances ... faced with a firearm at unusually close quarters," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.

As Castro arrested that suspect, Deputy Insp. John Corbisiero, commander of the 90th Precinct in East Williamsburg, captured the second suspect nearby after seeing that man shed outer clothing in an attempt to avoid matching a description relayed about the gunmen, police said.

Precinct commanders, who typically work on administrative tasks, rarely make an arrest, police officials said.

According to police, the incident began at 1:15 a.m., when Castro, alone on foot patrol, heard gunshots coming from a rear stairwell at 130 Moore St., in the Bushwick Houses public housing area.

Castro, who joined the Police Department in July 2005 and was assigned to the 90th Precinct in January, was on patrol as part of an effort to combat an increase of robberies in the area, police said.

After hearing the shots, Castro saw two men chasing and shooting at a man running on Humboldt Street. The officer radioed for backup, and as he gave chase saw the three men turn the corner west onto Varet Street.

When Castro turned the corner, he saw one of the men, whom police identified as Roberto Rodriguez, 20, shooting at the victim, Dennis Mack, 26.

Castro drew his revolver and yelled at Rodriguez, of Cobble Hill, to drop his weapon. The accomplice, Christopher Gray, 20, of Bushwick Houses, ran away along Varet, police said.

Castro saw Rodriguez put his gun into his pocket, then reach in and fling it on top of a low rooftop. The officer then pounced on Rodriguez and after a brief struggle placed him under arrest, police said.

Corbisiero, who joined the department in 1985, was in uniform and only four blocks away, driving an unmarked car when he heard Castro's call for backup. The deputy inspector drove south on Graham Avenue and turned east on Varet, where he saw Gray running.

He pulled over his car and yelled out the window at Gray.

"He [Gray] says, 'There's a shooting down there,' and keeps running," a police source said.

The deputy inspector observed that Gray was acting nervously and then saw Gray shedding his coat. That's when Corbisiero caught up with and arrested Gray.

Mack, who was shot many times, was rushed to Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center. He was pronounced dead at 1:45 a.m., police said.

Police said they recovered a 9mm handgun and a .38-caliber revolver from rooftops at the scene. Charges were pending against Rodriguez and Gray, both of whom have extensive criminal records, police said.

Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc.

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