BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA, ASHLEY HARRELL AND WIL CRUZ. STAFF WRITERS
Copyright 2005 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York)
A Brooklyn police officer shot yesterday in the left armpit - just beyond the reach of his bulletproof vest - continued to pursue his assailant, dying hours after the early-morning chase through Flatbush.
Officer Dillon Stewart, 35, a five-year veteran of the force and a father of two daughters, was shot through the heart and later died at Kings County Hospital Center. Stewart at first didn't even realize he had been wounded, police said. Instead, the uniformed officer drove off in his unmarked car in pursuit of the suspect, Allan Cameron, 27. Stewart, of Elmont, was credited with helping to corner Cameron in a building where he was later captured.
"Officer Stewart showed remarkable tenacity and courage in pursuing his assailant," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said during a somber news conference at the hospital. "Despite his horrific wound, he continued to drive the police car, keeping the shooter in sight."
Cameron, a lanky ex-convict with previous arrests that include infractions for driving recklessly and resisting arrest, was charged with murder.
Cameron also was being questioned late yesterday as the possible gunman who shot and wounded off-duty Officer Wiener Philippe, 26, in Crown Heights on Nov. 19, police sources said. The questioning of Cameron in connection with the prior shooting is routine, as both Cameron and the man who shot Philippe are of similar build and both were driving an Infiniti. Plus, police sources said, having committed a previous serious crime might explain why Cameron would fire at a cop over a car stop.
Cameron also had a warrant for an assault case in Philadelphia, though law enforcement sources say he was never extradited to that city following a 2003 reckless driving arrest.
Stewart - born in Jamaica and reared in Brooklyn before moving to Elmont with his family - is the first city cop to be killed in the line of duty this year and the first shot dead since detectives Robert Parker and Patrick Rafferty were slain in September 2004.
The pre-dawn bloodshed sparked public displays of grief and anger: at Kings County Hospital, where cops, friends and relatives gathered by the dozens; at the 70th Precinct, where Stewart was remembered as a low-key, dedicated officer; and on Long Island, where his family and neighbors remembered a family man who loved his two daughters, including a 5-month-old.
"Why did he have to do this?" Stewart's mom, Winifred Flemming, wailed at her daughter's house in Valley Stream. "Why did he have to take him? Why? Why? Why?"
The 2:49 a.m. shooting was set in motion minutes earlier, during what had otherwise been a routine shift for Stewart and his partner, Officer Paul Lipka.
Police officials and police sources provided the following account:
The partners, assigned to a conditions unit that concentrates on persistent problems and quality of life issues, were sitting in their unmarked Impala, parked in front of Temptations, a Church Avenue nightclub.
The officers, in uniform, had pulled up there to make sure there were no problems as the club wound down business for the night.
Cameron, speeding west on Church Avenue in a red Infiniti, blew past the red light at Church and Flatbush avenues.
Stewart, with Lipka in the passenger seat, made a quick U-turn and gave chase, following Cameron on a three-quarter-mile chase that ended, at least temporarily, back at Flatbush and Church avenues.
It was there, across from the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Flatbush, that Stewart pulled up alongside Cameron, whose car had stopped.
Cameron leaned over and fired five shots from a Glock 9mm pistol through the open passenger side window of the Impala, police say.
Three shots struck the driver's side door panel and one struck the rear passenger door.
The remaining shot, however, nicked the top of the driver's side door and struck Stewart, who may have reflexively raised his left arm.
The bullet, Kelly said later, missed the rim of Stewart's bulletproof vest by a quarter inch.
At that point, police said, neither Lipka nor Stewart realized Stewart had been shot, and Stewart resumed the chase, following Cameron west on Church, then north again on East 21st Street.
Cameron stopped mid-block and pulled into a garage at 100 E. 21st St., apparently accessing the facility with a remote control.
Cameron raced down the concrete ramp to the basement garage and got out of his car.
Stewart and Lipka, meanwhile, were up above on the street. Lipka fired twice and another officer, Mark Pihlava, fired once at the suspect, who got away as the garage door closed.
By then, police and a witness said, Stewart realized he was hit.
"I'm shot," he yelled as he stumbled upon exiting the police car, the witness said. "I'm shot."
Two back-up officers grabbed Stewart, put him in the back seat of his unmarked car and raced to Kings County Hospital.
"It appeared we might be able to save him," said Dr. Robert Kurtz, co-director of trauma, surgery and critical care at the hospital.
But after stabilizing somewhat, officials said Stewart again went into cardiac arrest and died at 8:40 a.m., his wife, mother and sister waiting outside his hospital room.
The shooting set off a massive police response, with bloodhounds and cops in helicopters involved in the search.
Cameron's time as a fugitive was short-lived.
Stewart and Lipka had already learned from a computer check that the license plates on the Infiniti were stolen.
Police said they were expired New Jersey dealer plates that had never been surrendered. A trace of the car's vehicle identification number led them to a neighborhood man who said he had recently sold the Infiniti to Cameron.
Someone at Cameron's East 21st Street address then told police Cameron's girlfriend lived nearby on Ocean Avenue, right behind the building into which he had earlier fled.
Police called him at the apartment and urged him to surrender. In minutes, police said, Cameron handed over the magazine from his gun, then gave himself up to a phalanx of cops, including Chief of Department Joseph Esposito, who lives nearby.
Police recovered the gun believed to be the murder weapon in the rear of a nearby building.
An officer's last patrol
A police recount of the chase and fatal shooting in Brooklyn early yesterday
1. Suspect runs red light at 2:50 a.m., prompting uniformed officer Dillon Stewart and Paul Lipka to give chase in their unmarked car.
2. After being pursued for several blocks, suspect returns to original intersection and stops. Officers pull alongside. Suspect fires five shots from his car and leaves.
3. Suspect pulls into garage with officers in pursuit. The suspect and officers get out of their cars, and shots are fired. Suspect flees, and Officer Stewart realizes he's been shot.
4. Police arrest suspect Allan Cameron around 8:30 a.m., at his girlfriend's apartment. Stewart dies at hospital at 8:40 a.m.
HIT IN A VULNERABLE SPOT
Officer Stewart, who was driving was struck in the armpit, and the slug passed through his heart.
Grazed police car's door sill as it passed through open window
Reported by Rocco Parascandola
His brave final pursuit