NEW YORK, N.Y. – A California man who skipped town after being accused of molesting a boy was killed and three law enforcement officers trying to arrest him were wounded in a daytime shootout inside a small smoke shop in one of New York’s most bustling neighbourhoods, officials said Monday.
The man, Charles Richard Mozdir, was recently featured on a CNN show about fugitives. He was wanted in a San Diego case and was charged with lewd acts upon a child younger than 14, a criminal complaint said.
The shootout between Mozdir and members of the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force happened just after 1 p.m. in Greenwich Village not far from New York University in a highly trafficked tourist area bounded by jazz clubs, restaurants, a subway station and a basketball court.
Mozdir’s handgun was recovered at the scene, and 20 extra rounds of ammunition were found in his pocket, Police Commissioner William Bratton said.
A police detective first entered the narrow smoke shop and identified Mozdir, who apparently was alone, Police Commissioner Bratton said, before leaving and returning with the U.S. marshals.
The detective was shot at least twice, in the stomach below his protective vest and in the right chest, which could have been deadly were it not stopped by the vest, Bratton said at a hospital.
One U.S. marshal was shot in the elbow and another in his buttocks, he said. All three were in stable condition and had been visited by city and federal officials.
The detective didn’t fire his weapon, but the federal agents fired multiple rounds, authorities said.
“They do what law enforcement personnel do every day,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “They have to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.”
Edoardo Gelardin, who was heading to lunch shortly after the shooting when he saw officers loading the victims into ambulances and officers with assault weapons sealing off the scene, said it was “shocking and out of place.”
“It was a little overwhelming to see a scene like that,” he said.
A $1 million bench warrant was issued for Mozdir’s arrest in June 2012 after he skipped an arraignment in San Diego Superior Court on child sexual assault charges, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney said.
Mozdir, a wedding photographer, also had been charged with attempting to dissuade a witness from prosecution, the criminal complaint said. He had posted $250,000 bail.
Mozdir’s case had recently been featured on CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh.” Mozdir was accused of abusing the boy while babysitting him, and authorities later found evidence of child pornography and bestiality on his cellphone and computers, according to the show’s website, quoting federal authorities.
Authorities had searched for him in Coronado, Georgia, California and Mexico, the show said.
The San Diego County public defender’s office, which represented Mozdir in the child molestation case, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.
The violence recalled a deadly shootout that left a gunman and two auxiliary police officers dead on another Greenwich Village street in March 2007.
That gunman, David Garvin, killed a bartender, according to police, and then turned crowded streets packed with storied taverns into a shooting gallery. Unarmed volunteer officers Eugene Marshalik and Nicholas Todd Pekearo were killed.
Associated Press reporter Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.