More Arrests in Killing of 2 NYPD Detectives
By Janny Scott And William K. Rashbaum, The New York Times
Police said today that they had arrested two more suspects - the fourth and fifth - in connection with the fatal shootings of two undercover New York City detectives in Staten Island on Monday night.
Both suspects were taken into custody in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, the police said. A senior official said one of the suspects, Ronell Wilson, 20, of Staten Island, had been identified as the gunman by his conspirators. The other man arrested today, Paris Bullock, may have seen one of the suspects leave bloody clothes and one of the detectives' guns at an apartment, investigators said.
On Tuesday morning, just hours after the failed undercover gun-buying operation, Omar Green, a 19-year-old high school senior, was arrested aboard a Manhattan-bound Staten Island Ferry despite his disguise of a wig, lipstick and a stuffed bra.
A passenger had told two officers that she had passed someone who was "either a guy or the ugliest woman" and who was acting suspiciously. When the police went looking for someone fitting that description, they said, they found Mr. Green in disguise on the upper deck.
Two other suspects were taken into custody separately - Jesse Jacobus, 16, and Michael Whiten, 19, who was charged in connection with an earlier gun sale to one of the detectives.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the two detectives were killed while on their way to a gun sale with two suspected associates of Mr. Green in the detectives' leased car. The detectives lost contact with four undercover police cars trailing them when a hidden wireless transmitter being worn by one of the detectives failed to work in the hilly Staten Island terrain, Mr. Kelly said.
The killing of the detectives was the first instance in more than 13 years in which two New York police officers were fatally shot on the job on the same day. Police officials identified the detectives killed Monday night as James V. Nemorin, 36, and Rodney J. Andrews, 34. Their deaths seemed especially shocking at a time when the murder rate remains lower than it has been for decades and the city's attention is consumed by fears of terrorism and possible war.
"Let me just point out that the City Police Department devotes an enormous amount of its effort to getting guns off the street," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a news conference. "Unfortunately, just when you think you're making progress, something like this happens."
Mr. Green was suspended from New Dorp High School in October and had not been seen at the school since Nov. 26, Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott said. Mr. Green lives with his mother, Bertha Green, a 12-year-old sister and a 1-year-old brother in an eight-story brick building at 67 Warren Street in the Stapleton Houses, a housing project in Tompkinsville. It was at Ms. Green's apartment that investigators say Mr. Green may have sought to hide the officers' gun and bloodied clothing.
On Tuesday, friends and neighbors described Mr. Green as a lover of video games and sports, "a well-mannered kid" and, one said, "like a big brother of the 'hood." But an uncle, Lawrence Black, 32, said Mr. Green had changed. "I saw him on the street and it seemed he didn't really care for life anymore," Mr. Black said. "I don't know what caused him to snap."
Cynthia Whiten, an aunt of Michael Whiten, said her nephew had once lived in the Stapleton Houses. She said he graduated from Susan Wagner High School in June and was attending a college she declined to name. She and one of her sisters said Mr. Whiten admired sports and girls. "I'm in shock," Ms. Whiten said. "He wouldn't do anything like this."
Mr. Green's mother and his grandfather, who identified himself only as Abdul, said last night that he was innocent. They complained that the police had ransacked their apartment in what they said was retaliation for the detectives' deaths.
"We are sorry for everything that has happened," Abdul said. "But everybody is suffering now. I'm hurting right now. That's my grandson."
Mr. Green was arrested on firearms charges in 1999 with five other people, one official said, and another official said he was charged with felony drug possession in July 2000. The second official said Mr. Wilson was arrested on a robbery charge in March 2000. The outcomes of those cases was not known.
The detectives were shot during an undercover sting operation, the police said. The detectives, one carrying $1,200, had gone to the Stapleton Houses to buy a Tec-9 semiautomatic pistol, a weapon favored by drug dealers. There, they are believed to have spoken by cellphone with Mr. Green. Advertisement
Then two other men, who a senior police official said were believed to have been Mr. Wilson and Mr. Jacobus, emerged from the building and got in the back seat of the detectives' car. With the undercover cars trailing, they drove to Victory Boulevard and Corson Avenue, where they pulled over. One of the men in the back seat, whom the official identified as Mr. Wilson, got out.
The backup police cars kept their distance so they would not be noticed, Mr. Kelly said. The man who had gotten out of the detectives' car then returned and the car moved on. But because of what Mr. Kelly described as the rolling terrain in the area, the backup cars lost contact with the detectives.
"This is not unusual," he said of the transmitter's failure. "They have low wattage and they don't have that great a transmission range, and when you get into hilly locations it's difficult to transmit."
The transmission was recorded, and while the tape ends before the shootings, it shows that the relationship between the undercover detectives and the men from whom they sought to buy the gun had begun to deteriorate, a police official said. One of the gun dealers insisted on searching one detective, who protested, saying the man had not tried to search him during their previous meeting, the official said.
One of the men told investigators after his arrest that the men had planned to rob the detectives, doubting their street smarts because they had come from Brooklyn to Staten Island to buy a gun, the official said.
Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office, said both detectives had been shot in the back of the head. The bodies of the detectives, both fathers and seven-year veterans of the force, were found dumped near Hannah Street and St. Pauls Avenue. None of the $1,200 in cash had been taken.
Asked if there was any indication that the men in the car had known that they were with police detectives, Mr. Kelly said: "There's no indication at this time that that's the case. We have reason to believe that this was intended to be a robbery." Asked why the money might have been left behind, he said, "Well, panic." According to one law enforcement official, the two men in the back seat started to leave the car after the shootings, then returned, dragged the detectives' bodies out and drove away. The police later found the car, soaked with blood, and caught one of the men leaving it.
When Mr. Green was arrested, he was wearing a dark brown wig with blond highlights, black jeans, a black shirt and the bra, the police said. Asked for his name, he gave a false identity in a phony female voice, then eventually gave his name.
The police have offered a $54,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer of the two detectives and asked anyone with information to call (800) 577-TIPS or (800) COP-SHOT. They said all information would be kept confidential.
"Both of them, according to everybody, loved their jobs and were just dedicated public servants who unfortunately paid a terrible price to protect the rest of us," Mr. Bloomberg said of the two officers at the news conference earlier in the day. "And our hearts go out to their families."
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