A 20-year-old man was shot and killed by the police early on Friday as he fled from a group of robbers inside a bodega in the Bronx and collided with a police officer, the authorities said.
The man, who was identified by relatives as Reynaldo Cuevas, was a worker at the bodega, the police said.
The police account of what happened at the bodega, Natalie Grocery on Franklin Avenue in Morrisania, differed from what people who witnessed the shooting said. They said that Mr. Cuevas was shot by an officer who was some distance away from him.
The episode unfolded around 2 a.m. when three men entered the store as it was closing and ordered the manager and Mr. Cuevas, who is a nephew of the manager, to lie on the floor as they stole cash, lottery tickets and cigarettes, the police said.
Not long after the robbers entered the bodega, a customer glanced through a store window and saw a gunman pointing a pistol at two men on the floor, the police said, and called 911.
Within minutes, the police said, two officers from the local precinct station house and two housing officers from a nearby facility had arrived at the bodega.
Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said one of the housing officers looked into the bodega to take stock of the situation.
When the three robbers saw that the police had arrived, they tried to flee through a rear door, Mr. Browne said, adding that the bodega manager heard voices shouting “policia” as the robbers scrambled toward the rear of the store.
Meanwhile, the manager of the bodega and his nephew made a run for the front, where four police officers stood within feet of the door, Mr. Browne said. At least one of them, the same officer who had looked inside the bodega moments earlier, had his pistol drawn.
The bodega manager emerged first, exiting without incident to safety. As he did, Mr. Browne said, the man made gestures indicating that a man inside the store was armed. A moment later, Mr. Browne said, Mr. Cuevas emerged, moving quickly with his head lowered, almost as if he feared he might be followed by shots fired from inside.
“The nephew just comes running out full tilt into the officer,” Mr. Browne said. “They became entangled.”
As the two men collided, Mr. Browne said, “a round goes off.”
Mr. Cuevas fell to the sidewalk, Mr. Browne said, adding that the officer was partly knocked down.
Mr. Cuevas was struck in the left shoulder, Mr. Browne said, and was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“We believe it was an accidental discharge,” Mr. Browne said.
A man who said he witnessed the shooting, but who declined to give his name, gave the following account:
He said the officer who shot Mr. Cuevas was about 50 feet away and that Mr. Cuevas sprinted out of the store with his hands up and in front of his face like a shield.
A second man fled the grocery at the same time as Mr. Cuevas, but was a few paces behind him and was tackled by the police.
After Mr. Cuevas fell to the ground, an officer dragged him away from the scene by one of his arms.
The witness said that he did not hear Mr. Cuevas yell anything as he ran out of the store, nor did the police say anything to him before he was shot.
“He came out scared. The cops didn’t say anything; no one did,” the witness, 25, said. “He ran out with his hands out, and they shot him.”
The man added, “It was an honest mistake because the cops were frightened, as they were patrolling, he came running out.”
After Mr. Cuevas was shot, a standoff ensued with the robbers inside the bodega and officers outside, Mr. Browne said. One of the robbers, Christopher Dorsey, 17, left the bodega and surrendered, Mr. Browne said.
Some time later, a second robber, Ernesto Delgado, 28, left the store, telling officers that he had been held hostage by the gunman inside. The police did not believe that account, Mr. Browne said, and detained Mr. Delgado.
Around 5 a.m., officers from the emergency services unit entered the bodega and found Orlando Ramos, 32, tied up with yellow rope in the bodega’s basement. Mr. Ramos told officers that he had been tied up by robbers who fled, Mr. Browne said, but the police determined that he was in fact the man who had pointed a silver handgun at the bodega manager and Mr. Cuevas.
Mr. Browne said that officers found the weapon, a Harrington and Richardson .32-caliber revolver wrapped in a plastic bag and hidden behind a bag of birdseed on a bodega shelf. It was unloaded, he said. Officers also found a ski mask behind a door to the basement and a gray backpack containing money, scratch-off lottery tickets and Newport cigarettes near the rear of the store.
Maria Rodriguez, 49, an aunt of Mr. Cuevas, said that her nephew had worked in the bodega for a few months and was helping to support his 3-year-old daughter, who lives in the Dominican Republic.
“He came in yesterday morning, said hello and gave me a kiss,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “I can’t believe I just saw him and then he died.”
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly was scheduled to give a news conference on Friday afternoon.
Source: NY Times