Undercover officer wounded, another arrested in N.Y. shootout
By DAVID B. CARUSO
The Associated Press
NEW YORK -- An undercover police officer had been shot, and police were hunting for the suspect's vehicle. They soon found it --with another officer behind the wheel, police said.
The driver, Officer Jacqueline Melendez-Rivera, quickly became a subject Saturday of an investigation by the force on which she has served for 13 years.
As police pieced together an account of the early morning shootout on a Brooklyn street, Melendez-Rivera's husband, Jose Rivera, was arrested for attempted murder and other charges. Officer Melendez-Rivera was accused of helping to cover up the crime.
The wounded officer, Andrew Suarez, was in serious but stable condition early Sunday at a local hospital, police said. Struck in the back, he was expected to make a full recovery, according to police.
The violent confrontation unfolded in Brooklyn's Park Slope section. Investigators said Suarez and three fellow plainclothes officers, who were on a routine anti-crime watch, pulled their unmarked car over to get a closer look at a vehicle driving behind them. That vehicle then slowed alongside the officers.
The driver leaned across the body of a male passenger, shouted "You got a beef?" and fired a shot at Suarez, who was driving the unmarked police car, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The bullet traveled underneath Suarez' bulletproof vest, through his back and lodged in his neck. A second shot may also have been fired, Kelly said.
The three officers with Suarez returned fire, blasting at least 13 shots before the other vehicle sped away, Kelly said.
Shortly afterward, police stopped a vehicle matching the description of the one that had carried the attackers. They found Melendez-Rivera driving it, Kelly said.
Just what the officer was doing with the car, 1 1/2 miles from the crime scene, was unclear, Kelly said before the arrests. Authorities said then that they did not believe the 37-year-old officer was present for the shooting.
Her husband and another man were later detained at the couple's nearby home. Police said they later recovered a loaded 9mm handgun in a yard on the same block.
Melendez-Rivera, who was suspended from duty, was arrested on charges of hindering prosecution, tampering with evidence, obstructing governmental administration and unlawful possession of marijuana, police said.
Her 31-year-old husband was arrested on charges of attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, defacing a firearm, tampering with evidence, menacing and criminal possession of marijuana, police said.
There was no listed telephone number at the couple's address, and a police spokesman said he had no information on whether the couple had lawyers. A spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association said he was uncertain whether any of the group's lawyers were representing Melendez-Rivera.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with the injured officer at the hospital Saturday morning and said he was in good spirits.
"We joked and we laughed," Bloomberg said. "We're just lucky this wasn't an awful lot worse."
Suarez was appointed to the force in 2003 and is assigned to the 78th precinct. He was the first city police officer shot this year, and the third wounded by gunfire since October.
"Let us pray that it's the last," Bloomberg said.