The felon accused of shooting an NYPD officer in the head Saturday night in Queens “has a history of violence against police” and made a “cold-blooded attempt at assassination of New York’s finest,” prosecutors said Sunday.
Demetrius Blackwell, 35, is facing charges of attempted first-degree murder, assault and weapons charges in the shooting of NYPD Officer Brian Moore, 25, of Massapequa. Blackwell faces life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
Moore is “fighting for his life” and suffered a “massive head injury,” said Queens Assistant District Attorney Peter J. McCormack at Blackwell’s arraignment. Earlier Sunday, NYPD Sgt. Daniel Doody said the officer remains in critical but stable condition at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center after undergoing hours of surgery.
Blackwell appeared in Queens Criminal Court Sunday afternoon wearing a torn, white plastic jumpsuit, exposing part of his chest and right shoulder, as about 100 NYPD officers — in uniform and plainclothes — crowded the courtroom. Blackwell, whose feet were shackled, did not speak or enter a plea.
Judge Michael Yavinsky ordered Blackwell held without bond. He’s due back in court Friday.
McCormack said Blackwell told police officers at the 105th Precinct after his arrest: “They call me D. They also call me ‘hell-raiser’ on the street.”
Three witnesses to the shooting near 104th Road and 212th Street in Queens Village placed Blackwell at the scene — two identifying him in a police lineup, McCormack said.
At about 6:15 p.m. Saturday, McCormack said, Moore was with his partner when they saw Blackwell tugging at his waistband, thought he had a gun and asked him, “What are you carrying?”
Blackwell “in a vicious manner, started to fire,” McCormack said.
Moore and his partner, Officer Erik Jansen, 30, were in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car at the time of the shooting, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Saturday.
Jansen, 30, radioed for help and officers rushed Moore to the hospital in a police vehicle, Bratton said.
The officers’ driver-side door was open when investigating officers examined it at the scene Saturday night, a police source said.
Officers descended on the neighborhood after the shooting, peering into yards and passing vehicles, and telling residents to stay in their homes.
Police arrested Blackwell about 90 minutes after the shooting at 104-25 212th Place, Bratton said. Blackwell was known to stay at several homes in the area, Bratton said.
Blackwell served 7 years in prison for attempted murder and was released from upstate Clinton Correctional Facility in 2008, according to prison records.
McCormack said that in a 2013 altercation with NYPD officers, Blackwell “grabbed for a detective’s badge and spit at the detective.”
Blackwell’s court-appointed attorney, David Bart, of Flushing, Queens, said in court that he plans a “vigorous defense” of his client.
“He denies the charges emphatically,” Bart said.
Blackwell was “arrested in his home without a warrant,” and the arrest “may be illegal,” Bart said.
Asked about Bart’s allegations outside of the court, McCormack declined to comment.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, who attended the arraignment, was surrounded by more than 100 officers on the steps of the courthouse and denounced Blackwell.
“He [MOORE]was gunned down by a miscreant who prides himself on being called ‘hell-raiser.’ Well, as this judge just put him behind bars, he can raise hell in Rikers Island,” Lynch said. “But we’ll make sure he never raises hell on the streets of New York City.”
Officers had not recovered the gun used in the shooting, despite canvassing a three-block area, a high-ranking police official said. Police theorize Blackwell may have given it to someone to safeguard or buried or ditched it in a sewer, the official said.
On Sunday afternoon, police taped off the shooting scene at 104th Road between 213th and 210th streets. Several police cars and two NYPD vehicles were on the scene, with officers going up and down the block, checking rooftops and sewers.
The NYPD searched the Queens Village house where they caught Blackwell, according to a woman who said she lives there, but would not give her name. She said she has lived in the house for 39 years.
After hearing shots, the woman said she and her family came out of their house. Blackwell, whom she knows, came over from another lawn to her porch. They all stood outside for about 90 minutes before the police told everyone on the block to go inside. Then, two minutes later, officers told the people in the house to get out.
“It’s frustrating; they’re flipping my house upside down,” the woman said Sunday afternoon.
Blackwell, an ex-convict, was arrested after a house-to-house manhunt by scores of NYPD and Nassau police officers.
Lynch visited with Moore for almost two hours Sunday and described a scene of “hundreds” of fellow officers, as well as Moore’s family and friends keeping watch.
Lynch said the officer is still in “very serious” condition and they’re awaiting word from the doctor on his prognosis.
“We pray and we ask the public to take the time to bow their heads and pray,” Lynch said. “It’s hurry up and wait at this point.”
Groups of NYPD officers came and went from the hospital throughout the day. A small group of police stood outside, unloading trays of food and bottles of water onto a dolly.
In the Massapequa neighborhood where Moore lives, neighbors were saddened by the news of the shooting.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said a next-door-neighbor, Liam Whyte, 45. “It’s always reassuring when officers live in the neighborhood because it feels safe.”
Saturday night, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference: “It’s important we all keep Officer Moore in our prayers.” He and Bratton met with and consoled Moore’s parents.
Moore, an anti-crime officer in the 105th Precinct, joined the force in July 2010. His father and uncle are retired NYPD sergeants and he also has a cousin on the force, Bratton said.
Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas issued a statement Sunday about the shooting, saying: “Last night’s events serve as a grim reminder of how dangerous routine law enforcement work can be. Officer Moore is the victim of a horrific act of cowardice — all of us at the Nassau DA’s office are hoping for his quick recovery and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this critical time.”