NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A police officer’s gun “accidentally discharged,” killing a bodega worker who was fleeing a robbery in the Bronx, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday.
Store clerk Reynaldo Cuevas died earlier in the day after fleeing from Natalie Grocery at 169th Street and Franklin Avenue in the Morrisania section, Kelly said.
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Cuevas, a nephew of the store’s owner, Alcibades Cuevas, was working at the bodega when three suspects, one armed with a gun, entered the store around 2 a.m., police said.
“Once inside, the gunman, wearing a ski mask, ordered the store’s night manager and [Cuevas] to lie on the floor,” Kelly said.
After hitting the store manager in the back of his head with the gun, the gunman went through the victims’ pockets as the two other suspects went behind the counter and began filling a backpack with cash, cigarettes and lottery tickets, Kelly said.
That’s when a passerby looked in the store, saw the robbery in progress and called 911, Kelly said.
“Soon thereafter, the night manager, while still on the floor, heard one of the suspects yell ‘policía, policía, policía’ — ‘police’ three times,” Kelly said.
When the suspects saw cops outside, two fled to the back of the store and then into the basement, giving Reynaldo Cuevas and the store manager a chance to escape, Kelly said.
After the manager walked out the store, Cuevas followed, running ”full speed” into an officer who was outside with his gun drawn, Kelly said.
“Mr. Cuevas, in an understandable effort to get away from the gunman as fast as possible, ran straight into the officer,” Kelly said.
He said the two “became entangled at which point, we believe, the officer accidentally discharged his weapon with one round entering Mr. Cuevas’ left shoulder.”
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The entire incident was captured on surveillance video, which was later released by police. Alcibades Cuevas, who had not seen the video, disputed whether the shooting was an accident when talking to CBS 2′s John Slattery.
“Not accident, no. Why shoot? Not accident,” said Alcibades Cuevas said.
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Witnesses nearby said they heard the gunshot.
“We heard a shot, the cops was flooding across the street,” said witness Cece Berrian. ”The boy dropped. When I turned around, the boy dropped, he was laid out.”
Kelly said officers at the scene immediately began to try to save Reynaldo Cuevas, but he later died at the hospital. He said the events ”transpired in a matter of seconds.”
All three suspects were eventually arrested.
Police identified the suspects as Christopher Dorsey, 17, Orlando Ramos, 32, and Ernesto Delgado, 28. All three live in the same building on Eastburn Avenue in the Bronx. They each face murder, robbery and weapons charges.
Dorsey ran out of the store at the same time as Cuevas and the manager and surrendered, Kelly said.
Delgado, surrendered to police around 5:30 a.m. The suspected gunman, Ramos, was found tied to a pole in the basement pretending to be a victim of the robbery, Kelly said.
“He had been tied there with yellow rope by his accomplice,” Kelly said.
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A .32 caliber revolver, which was unloaded, and the suspects’ backpack filled with $718, cigarettes and lottery tickets, were found at the scene, Kelly said.
Many of Cuevas’ friends and relatives said they don’t understand what happened.
“He was a nice guy, fun-loving person, always a hard-working person,” said friend Argelys Duvall.
“He really had something to live for,” said another friend. ”He was a good kid. He helped out his community a lot.”
Ramon Murphy, president of the Bodegueros Association, and others were demanding answers Friday.
“What we can’t explain was the fact that he was running for help and the person to kill him was a police officer,” Murphy said in a statement.
Kelly extended his “deepest condolences” to Cuevas’ family for their loss. Cuevas leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter in the Dominican Republic.
“He’d send the money every week. Half of his check was going over there,” cousin Mickey Rodriguez told CBS 2′s Jessica Schneider. “We really loved Ray you know, everyone loved him. He was always cool with everybody.”
Meanwhile, an officer rushing to the scene crashed into a Range Rover that was stopped at a red light at 163rd Street and Third Avenue. The squad car was crushed in the wreck and the “Jaws of Life” had to be used to remove the officer.
The officer broke his left femur and possibly fractured his nose, Kelly said. The people inside the SUV suffered minor injuries.
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