A fugitive suspected of sexual assault and a task force sent to apprehend him were involved in a shootout in Greenwich Village, New York, on Monday. The suspect, featured on CNN’s The Hunt recently, was killed and three law enforcement officials were injured. Of those injured are a police detective and two federal marshals.
In a joint press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton reported that the officers are currently in stable condition. Initial reports are that all three are expected to survive.
The incident occurred when the fugitive apprehension task force acting on information that Charles Mozdir, 32, was inside, attempted to serve a warrant shortly after 1:00 p.m. in a West Village tobacco store called Smoking Culture NYC. The location is close to both New York University and a subway station.
While the task force was attempting to deliver the warrant, Mozdir, reportedly began shooting at the officers. After the ensuing gun battle, a total of four victims were taken by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital, where the fugitive died. According to Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, one officer is undergoing surgery while the other two are being treated. Stephen Davis, New York Police Department spokesman, reported that in addition to the detective shot in the stomach, one marshal suffered a gunshot wound to his buttocks while the other was hit in the shoulder. Authorities were able to recover the weapon used by the suspect, Charles Mozdir, 32, who had registered a handgun in the past.
Mozdir’s case was featured on July 20 on the John Walsh-hosted CNN show, The Hunt. The nationwide search for the fugitive began after a friend of Mozdir accused him of sexually abusing her son while he was babysitting for her in Coronado, Calif., in June 2012. So close was Mozdir to the family of the alleged victim that he was hired to photograph their wedding. Although he was arrested shortly after the incident, he disappeared on June 15th 2012, after posting bail of $1 million. Law enforcement had tracked Mozdir in California, Mexico and the southern U.S. – eventually finding his vehicle in Georgia – before locating him in New York City. Before fleeing, Mozdir threatened the family of the boy he was arrested for abusing and reportedly indicated that if he were to be found by officers, he would kill himself.
Marshals Service Deputy Brian Grimes told CNN that Mozdir was also suspected of sexual assault in another case. He reported that when detectives searched his home on a warrant, they discovered bestiality and child pornography evidence on his computers and on his cell phone.
A resident of the neighborhood in which the shootout took place described the events as “pure chaos.” After the shootout, a throng of police cars raced to the scene. Streets were closed and barricades were hastily put up to prevent the crowds of residents and onlookers from disturbing the scene. The federal fugitive task force combines the resources of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in order to capture fugitives who have been classified as dangerous and to aid in the investigation of their cases.
By Jennifer Pfalz