An NYPD detective and two U.S. marshals were injured during a shooting in the West Village Monday while attempting to arrest an alleged sex offender from California, authorities said.
The fugitive, 32-year-old Charles Mozdir, was shot and killed during a shootout at about 1 p.m. inside the Smoking Culture shop, where he was working, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
First, the 45-year-old NYPD detective entered the shop and confirmed that Mozdir was alone inside, Bratton said. The detective, Mario Muniz, then left and re-entered the shop with the marshals.
“Immediately upon entering a gun battle ensued,” Bratton said from Bellevue Hospital Center, where the lawmen were being treated. “It is very close quarters.”
All three officers were part of the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, Bratton said.
A warrant for Mozdir’s arrest was issued in June 2012 after he was accused of molesting a child in Coronado, California, said James Elcik, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.
A .32-caliber revolver was recovered at the scene, Bratton said, along with 20 additional rounds of ammunition from Mozdir’s pocket.
While on the run, Mozdir had altered his appearance, Bratton said.
“They had to deal with an incredibly difficult situation, split-second decisions,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “They do what law enforcement personnel do every day. They have to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us, and these three men did that.”
In 2012, officials found Mozdir’s vehicle hidden in a field in Georgia after he skipped out on bail in California, according to the City of Coronado police. Mozdir had family in San Diego, Mexico and Austin, Texas, and was known to live off the land, police said.
At one point he had a black Labrador named Lucky, according to the Coronado police.
Muniz, the detective, has been in the department for more than 20 years and was promoted last month, Bratton said. He was shot in his chest and saved by his bulletproof vest, the commissioner said. Bratton said one of the marshals appeared to have been shot in buttocks and the other marshal was hit in the elbow. All three officers are in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital Center.
Muniz was being comforted by his mother, son and fiancée, Bratton said.
From his apartment, 85-year-old West Village resident Leo, who declined to give his last name, said he heard several shots.
“I thought it was Fourth of July firecrackers,” he said.
West 4th Street, between Barrow and Jones streets, remained blocked off Monday evening. In true New York fashion, the surrounding neighborhood went on as if nothing happened.
“This is West 4th Street,” said resident Jerry Dewitt, 65. “Anything and everything can happen on this block.”
Stephonik Youth, who lives on Jones Street, was surprised to return home from the gym and see the swarms of police officers.
“It’s a strange feeling coming back to the hood and having the anxiety popping,” she said.
There are about 20 detectives currently working with the marshals office, one of several joint task forces the NYPD works with, Bratton said. “It’s part of the extensive collaboration that we engage in,” he said.
Last Sunday, Mozdir was featured on CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh,” a program that features fugitives.
(with Pete Catapano, Ivan Pereira and Noelani Montero)