Vest saves officer's life; Cops involved in two shooting incidents that left man dead


An armed man yelling "I don''t want to go back to jail!" opened fire on a police officer early yesterday, striking him twice before the officer fired back with the man''s own gun, authorities said.

The Prospect Heights incident was one of two police-involved shootings yesterday. In the afternoon, a police officer shot a man in a Chelsea storage facility where officers had seized counterfeit goods, police said. The man, whose name has not been released, died hours later at St. Vincent''s Hospital.

In the Brooklyn shooting, the officer, Peter Garrito, 27, who was struck once in the chest and once in the ankle, owes his life to his bulletproof vest, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. Garrito and Officer Daniel Perez, 29, of the 77th Precinct''s Anti-Crime Unit, were on patrol about 12:15 a.m. yesterday when they began following Martin Diggs, 30, down Carlton Avenue, police said. When they searched him, they found a loaded .40-caliber handgun in his waistband, police said.

As they tried to arrest him, however, Diggs took out a second gun, a 9mm, and fired twice at Garrito, police said. Garrito fired back five times, using Diggs'' .40-caliber weapon, police added.

During the scuffle, Diggs was yelling, "Please don''t hurt me," and "I don''t want to go back to jail," one witness said. Police said Diggs had been arrested six times on robbery, car theft, drug and weapons charges, and has been in jail twice.

"He was laying on his stomach. He was begging ''Please do not hurt me,''" said Neal Farinah, a hairstylist who encountered the confrontation while he was taking a walk. "Even I was begging."

Farinah said he had passed Diggs as Diggs walked down the street with the plainclothes'' officers'' unmarked car rolling slowly beside him. As they passed, Diggs said, "They act like they''ve never seen someone like me before," Farinah said. He said he replied, "Don''t worry about it, just keep on walking."

It was not immediately known what prompted the officers to follow Diggs. As of last night, neither officer had been interviewed by police officials, as is the custom in police-involved shootings.

Garrito, a four-year veteran, was taken to Kings County Hospital Center, where he was in stable condition last night. Perez was treated for a broken hand, police said.

"According to the attending doctor, the officer [Garrito] would have been dead at the scene had he not been wearing his vest, since the bullet hit directly over his heart," Kelly said at an early morning news conference.

Diggs was in serious condition at Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center. Charges against him were pending.

In the afternoon shooting inside the Chelsea Mini-Storage at 615 W. 27th St., an officer guarding counterfeit goods shot a man after a confrontation in a third-floor hallway at 4:20 p.m., police said.

The man, who was shot in the chest and leg, died just after 7 p.m., police said.

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