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Slain NYC Detectives Were on Risky Detail

NEW YORK (AP) -- It's one of the riskiest jobs in law enforcement: taking illegal guns off the streets by trapping armed suspects in illicit deals.

For three years, the New York Police Department's Firearms Investigation Unit has hauled in increasing numbers of guns and suspects with operations that delicately balance stealth and safety.

On Monday night, backup teams lost two undercover detectives trying to buy a $1,200 submachine gun, police said. Minutes later, the two men were dumped on a Staten Island street with fatal gunshot wounds.

Four suspects were in custody Wednesday, including 19-year-old Omar Green, who gave himself up on a Staten Island ferry Tuesday after a passenger alerted two patrol officers to a man disguised in a blond-streaked wig and stuffed bra.

Ronell Wilson, also 19, was arrested Wednesday. Also arrested were Michael Whitten, 19, and Jessie Jacobus, 17. Police said at least one other man was wanted for questioning.

In Monday's undercover operation, four police backup cars dropped out of sight when one of two suspects riding in the detectives' car got out to make a phone call, police said.

The backups could not catch up again, and a miniature transceiver on one of the detectives' bodies cut out in the hilly neighborhood, police said.

"It's a challenge, no question about it, to have something small enough to avoid detection but large enough to transmit a sufficient distance," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

The police detectives' union said it had long complained of problems with the transceivers, known as "kels," although it was unclear whether a technical problem contributed to the deaths.

"Most of the time they work fine, other times they're deficient," Detectives' Endowment Association president Tom Scotto said. "Whether the outcome would have been the same is difficult to say."

The seven-year Police Department veterans were found minutes after the undercover operation began. Each had been shot once in the head and neither appeared to have fired a shot.

Investigators said they believe the officers were shot in an attempt to rob them of the $1,200 gun payment.

The two slain detectives were among 13 undercover officers in the city's firearms investigation unit, which seized 484 guns and arrested 89 people last year, up from 260 guns and 68 arrests in 2001, according to department records.

After initially withholding their names to protect open investigations, police identified the slain officers Wednesday as Rodney Andrews, 34, and James Nemorin, 36.

Nemorin, a seven-year police veteran, was married with three children, ages 7, 5 and 1. Andrews, a seven-year veteran, had two sons, ages 11 and 12.

There was a $54,000 reward for information leading to convictions in the case, police said.

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