NYPD cadet stopped gunman at NY college

By Erika Martinez and Hasani Gittens
The New York Post
Related: Man arrested with rifle at St. John's University

NEW YORK Christopher Benson, the police cadet and criminal-justice major who helped tackle a campus gunman at St. John's yesterday, deserves straight A's for the rest of the school year.

The genial 21-year-old from Little Neck, Queens, was relaxing between classes, chatting with his girlfriend via phone when he spotted something frightening and bizarre.

"A person walked by me wearing a George Bush mask, carrying a rifle," said Benson.

Other students noticed the creep, too.

Benson - who has been in the NYPD Cadet Corps for six weeks and has experience as a volunteer firefighter - followed the gun-toting student, later identified as Omesh Hiraman.

In the Cadet Corps, college students work in NYPD offices, gaining experience and a stipend while in school.

Benson said he was taught to "keep his distance and observe."

It didn't take much to realize something was up. "He had a mask with a hoodie - it was 80 to 90 degrees today," Benson said. "And then the way the guy was walking, the gun was just the icing on the cake."

The cadet followed Hiraman from St. John's Hall to Marillac Hall as the gunman zigzagged through a breezeway.

Campus security personnel, alerted by other witnesses, had closed down the area and were sending students emergency text messages.

As Hiraman turned a corner, he ran into security guard Dan Boylan, who quickly grabbed at the loaded .50-caliber weapon.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Benson went from observation to motivation springing into action to help Boylan. "I grabbed the suspect, held him against the wall and subdued him," he said.

At about 5-foot-11 and 150 to 180 pounds, Hiraman was no match.

Eventually, he called his girlfriend back and let her know he was OK.

Was she scared for him? Once again, not at all. "She knows me, and how I can deal with things," he said.

Benson, who has aspired to be a cop his whole life, got a phone call from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

"He said congratulations. It was pretty outstanding," said Benson. "I really enjoyed that phone call."

Copyright 2007 New York Post

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