As the year nears its end, New York City Police Department (NYPD) brass on Thursday announced they made arrests in what they identified as two major Manhattan cases, one where an off-duty police officer was shot in his car in January and another involving a string of robberies that led to five possible fatal drug overdoses.
NYPD honchos, including Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Chief of Detectives James Essig, also highlighted two arrests in murder cases they made over the past week, the first in a fatal stabbing inside a Midtown homeless shelter and the second for a shooting at an Inwood deli, during a news conference at NYPD headquarters Thursday morning.
Sewell said the shooting of off-duty police officer Keith Wagenhauser, who was hit in the head by a bullet while napping in his car in the rear parking lot of the 25th Precinct Station House early New Year’s Day, dates back to her first day on the job.
“One of these investigations goes back to my first day here with the NYPD, when off-duty officer Keith Wagenhauser, who is thankfully here with us today, recovered from his injuries that day,” Sewell said. “He was shot as he sat in his personal car, waiting to start his next tour in the 24th Precinct on Jan. 1. The shooter in that incident has been identified, arrested and will now be held accountable for his actions.”
Wagenhauser said, “I’m feeling pretty good, just happy to be alive and be before you guys.”
Almost 12 months after the shooting, Essig said, cops arrested the alleged perpetrator – a 17-year-old male, who hasn’t yet been named – Thursday morning and charged him with assault in the first and second degree, reckless endangerment in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon.
Essig said that in the “exhaustive” 12th month investigation by members of the Manhattan Detective Squad, investigators had ShotSpotter GPS run a manual search for all possible missed shots fired detections in the area. That, Essig said, led cops to a detection at the King Towers at 41 West 112th St., where a review of camera footage at the building showed one man loading a firearm.
They then found a 45 caliber shell casing on the building’s rooftop, Essig said, which was the same caliber bullet Wagenhauser was shot with. Cops spoke with witnesses in the area, he said, who were able to place the perp on the roof firing a gun at that time.
Additionally, Essig said, a man named Anthony Martinez was arrested in the 46th Precinct in the Bronx in August with a 45 caliber firearm that was linked to the shell casing on the King Towers roof through ballistics analysis.
“Working closely with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and based on video, witnesses, technology and ballistics evidence, we were able to indict and arrest that 17-year-old and bring a years-long investigation to a successful close,” he said.
The chief of detectives said the bullet traveled from where it was fired off the King Towers roof 10 and a half blocks to where it hit Wagenhauser.
“We believe he went up to the roof, fired one shot off that roof on New Year’s Day and it traveled 10 blocks,” he said.
The second closed case, Essig said, involved a spree of at least 26 robberies between March 18 and Dec. 8 that may have led to at least five fatal drug overdoses. Essig said they’ve identified five subjects in the case, of which they’ve arrested two.
The crew targets people leaving bars and offers them drugs, in some instances, Essig said. They then take jewelry, money, high-end watches and phones from their victims when they’re passed out, either through force or because the victim passed out.
One 33-year-old man cops believe to be one of the perpetrators was arrested in the Bronx earlier this week and charged with murder with two counts of murder, each for a fatal overdose. The first happened on March 18 at 147th Street in upper Manhattan and the second at 52 Ludlow St. on the Lower East Side. He was also charged for two robberies and one assault connected to the incidents.
Lieutenant David Leonardi of the Manhattan South Detective Squad said they believe the perps behind the overdoses were offering victims coming out of bars “cocktails” of narcotics in some cases.
“We believe that our perpetrators are targeting individuals that are coming out of the bars late at night because they’re intoxicated,” Leonardi said. “They’re approaching them, offering them, it could be a cigarette in some cases. In other cases. It could have been narcotics, that person wanted narcotics.”