03/15/2006

Two NY officers shot responding to call of man acting strangely

BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA AND LUIS PEREZ. STAFF WRITERS; Staff writer Matt Friedman contributed to this story

Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc. 

A bullet-proof vest that stopped a .44-caliber shot and a little used police technique might have saved the lives of police officers who responded to a bizarre incident in Bedford-Stuyvesant yesterday morning in which a deranged suspect set a fire to "burn the devil," police said.

Officer Hector Ramirez, 33, was struck in the vest, just above his heart, but suffered only a deep bruise. Another cop, John Antonacci, 40, was grazed in the back of his left shoulder.

But before the alleged shooter, Jonathan Julian, 29, could fire again, Sgt. Chik-Sum Gong grabbed the cylinder of the powerful handgun, helping to disarm him, police said.

"They're two very lucky officers," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said after visiting Ramirez and Antonacci at Kings County Hospital Center.

Kelly cited Gong's "presence of mind" in employing a technique that every cops learns in the Police Academy but that few ever get the chance to use.

Julian was charged with four counts of attempted murder and was being held at Kings County Hospital last night, police said.

Yesterday, Julian told reporters, "Yes, I did" when asked outside the 81st Precinct if he shot the officers.

The confrontation between police and Julian had all the elements of tragedy written into the script: an emotionally disturbed man armed first with two knives, then with a powerful handgun, face to face with four cops inside a small room.

Julian's first shot struck Ramirez, a four-year veteran, in the vest, near his shield, police said.

Julian's second shot, Kelly said, tore through the back of Antonacci's uniform and grazed him, causing a minor injury to the 15-year veteran.

At that point, Kelly said, Gong, 44, and Officer Nicholas Horun struggled to grab the gun from Julian.

Julian bit Horun on one hand, but was eventually subdued and arrested.

The wounded officers are expected to make full recoveries.

Just before 3 a.m., Julian set a placemat on fire in the sink of a shared kitchen on the second floor of a boarding house, police and residents said.

He said he was "burning the devil," residents told police, and proceeded to stalk the halls, a knife in each hand.

Residents, police said, warned both firefighters and police officers that Julian was acting irrationally.

When the four officers tried to get into his 6-foot by 8-foot room on Halsey Street, he tried to push the door shut, but they forced their way, yelling "Show your hands," police said.

But as the door flung open everyone fell forward onto the large bed, just 2 feet from the door, and Julian fired twice.

In October 2000, Julian was arrested after he was caught on a Flatbush street with a switchblade, authorities said.

Julian later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a weapon and was sentenced to a year's probation.

He also has a March 2005 marijuana arrest on his record for which he was sentenced to community service.

He has lived in the boarding house for about a year, though it wasn't until about three days ago, one friend said, that he began to act strangely, talking nonsensically about demons.

"I've never seen him behave like that," said the friend, who asked his name not be printed. "I feel really bad because maybe I could have done something."

The fire Julian set, officials said, was quickly extinguished, and no residents were injured.

Staff writer Matt Friedman contributed to this story 

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