SECAUCUS, N.J. - A police officer fired a shot at a man who tried to ram a cop while making his getaway after shooting the front door of a residence where a reputed mob figure was visiting family, officials said.
Bernard Yanotta, 65, of Meadow Lane, made his first court appearance yesterday on three counts of aggravated assault and weapons offenses on charges that he shot at the home of Helene Agathos-Schoendorf, officials said.
Police also alleged he tried to ram Sgt. Thomas Borrelli with his Ford Explorer and pointed a pistol at him, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said.
Neighbors and law enforcement sources say reputed Genovese crime family associate John Agathos Sr. was at the home at the time of the shooting. The bullet lodged in the front door and no one was injured, DeFazio said.
Officials say there is no reason to believe Agathos was the target, saying only that the motive of the shooting was related to a dispute over money, officials said.
When Yanotta's Explorer collided with the police vehicle, Borrelli got out of his cruiser and fired a round at Yanotta's car as he drove with gun in hand, DeFazio said, adding that Yanotta was not hit.
Yanotta was then arrested by other officers, DeFazio said.
Emmett Thompson, a neighbor who has lived across from the Agathos home since 1967, said he took a look when he heard the ruckus on the night of the shooting.
"I looked out the window and saw a lot of police cars," Thompson said yesterday. "The father (John Agathos Sr.) came out of the house in a robe, then got in the car and drove away." Thompson said he's known the Agathos family for years. "I know Helene a long time, watched her grow up."
Yanotta, a first-time offender, appeared in court via video link from Hudson County jail in Kearny. When asked if he had any questions, Yanotta said: "I was just hoping to have the bail reduced. I've been a good citizen all my life."
But Nieto said the charges were too serious.
According to a report to Congress by the Office of the Inspector General in 1996, Agathos was removed and banned for life from membership in the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union Local 69 in Secaucus, where he served as president.
The report stated that "Local 69 President, John Agathos Sr., and fund administrator, John Agathos Jr., were associated with the Genovese "la cosa nostra" family." It was "also determined that John Agathos Sr. embezzled approximately $150,000 from the Local."
John Agathos Sr. was in the news again in 2005 when union official David Feeback was convicted of stealing money from the local.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Grady O'Malley told The Star-Ledger at the time that Feeback was brought into the local by "alleged mob associate John N. Agathos."
Numerous attempts to reach Agathos-Schoendorf by phone yesterday were unsuccessful. Secaucus police would not confirm or deny the shooting even happened, despite the fact one of their officers had fired his gun.
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Mob hitman rams N.J. police officer before arrest