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July 29, 2014
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Officials: Vest saved cop in NYC shootout

Det. Mario Muniz, 45, was hit in the upper-right chest area by one of Mozdir's bullets, but it was stopped by his bullet proof vest

By Anthony M. Destefano and William Murphy
Newsday

NEW YORK — An NYPD detective and two federal marshals were shot and wounded Monday in a Greenwich Village shootout that killed a fugitive child molestation suspect from San Diego who'd been on the run for two years, officials said.

Det. Mario Muniz and two unidentified federal marshals were shot at close range by Charles Richard Thomas Mozdir, 32, whose last known address was in the North Park section of San Diego, police said. Modzir was shot and killed in the exchange of gunfire, police said.

Muniz, 45, was hit in the upper-right chest area by one of Mozdir's bullets, but it was stopped by his bullet proof vest, Police Commissioner William Bratton said at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday afternoon at Bellevue Hospital Center.

"His vest protected him from a more grievous injury had it entered his chest," Bratton said.

A police source said Muniz also suffered a wound to the abdomen. One marshal was hit in the buttocks and the other sustained a graze wound to the arm, a law enforcement source said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service didn't return calls for comment.

De Blasio said all the officers were in stable condition at Bellevue.

The exchange of gunfire occured shortly after 1 p.m. inside a smoke shop on West 4th Street near 6th Avenue, Bratton said. The three plainclothes members of the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force believed Mozdir was working at the smoke shop, Bratton said.

After confirming Mozdir was inside, Muniz and the federal marshals attempted to arrest Mozdir, who then opened fire, Bratton said.

During the news conference, De Blasio and Bratton held up the vest they said likely saved Muniz's life. A small bullet hole could be seen on the vest's upper-right side. Bratton said the detective has more than 20 years on the department and had recently been promoted.

Bratton said about 20 cops are normally assigned to the fugitive task force. He didn't know how many shots were fired in the incident in the smoke shop.

Mozdir was recently profiled on "The Hunt" with John Walsh on CNN.

Lea Corbin, a spokeswoman for the Coronado Police Department near San Diego, said Mozdir was charged on June 12, 2012, with various counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child younger than 14 by force, two charges of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child and one charge of witness intimidation by threats of violence.

Mozdir failed to appear for a June 15, 2012, court appearance, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Detectives traced Mozdir to Georgia, where his car was found in a field, and then turned the case over to the federal fugitive task force, Corbin said.

Mozdir was described as alternately clean shaven and wearing a beard and traveling with a black Labrador retriever named Lucky.

"All I saw was cops and cops and cops," said Jerry Dewitt, 65, who lives on the block of the crime scene. "This is West Fourth street. Anything and everything can happen on this block."

Laura Fiorenza, 51, who moved with her husband to the neighborhood from Germany just six days ago, said the couple "were just saying we feel very safe in this neighborhood. Now, I've changed my mind."


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Copyright 2014 Newsday

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