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Police: Man Shot Dead By Officers Pulled Air Pistol That Looked Like Gun

Drug Dealer Arrested Separately Told Suspect Raising Weapon: 'They're Cops, You Idiot!'
Queens Police-Involved Shooting Scene (credit: CBS 2)

Queens Police-Involved Shooting Scene (credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -A man with a record of 39 arrests was shot and killed by police detectives in Queens overnight, after pulling what police thought was a gun, but turned out to be a compressed air pistol.

Police on Sunday afternoon continued to investigate the shooting that left Victor Santos, 42, dead.

Around 10:45 p.m. Saturday at Gates and Seneca avenues in the Ridgewood section of Queens, two male plainclothes NYPD detectives – ages 48 and 42 and both nine-year department veterans – had just had arrested a 33-year-old suspect — Nolan Rivera — in a buy-and-bust drug sting operation.

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports

At that point, they were confronted by Santos, who pulled what looked like a Glock 19 semi-automatic handgun, police said. It was actually a Walther CP99 compressed air pistol, but was designed to look like a handgun, police said.

Police Shooting Suspect's Air Pistol

Victor Santos raised this compressed air pistol, which is designed to look like a real handgun, at police detectives in Queens Saturday night. Detectives returned fire and killed the suspect.

Rivera, the drug dealer who was arrested initially, said Santos with the air pistol “appeared out of nowhere,” and watched as the man pulled the weapon at detectives.

When he did so, the dealer said he told Santos, “They’re cops, you idiot!”

But Santos pointed the air pistol at the detectives anyway, and the detectives returned fire. They fired a total of six shots, striking the suspect three times in the leg and torso.

Santos was taken to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The Post reported Santos did not realize the two apparent drug buyers were undercover police officers, and that he hoped to rob them as well as the drug dealer.

A witness told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria the detectives were too hasty to open fire on Santos, given that the gun was not real.

“The guy, he had a fake gun and he tried to play around with the officer. The officer, he right away killed him. Five shots or six shots,” the witness said.

Witnesses said Santos had come out of what appeared to be a black livery cab, which pulled away as the man got out. Rivera told investigators he recognized Santos from the neighborhood, but did not know him personally, police said.

Rivera was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, tampering with physical evidence, and criminal possession of marijuana. He was also taken to an area hospital after swallowing what police believe was crack cocaine.

Santos had 39 prior arrests, including four by Miami-Dade police in Florida. He also had prior convictions in New York City, primarily for drugs, but also for robbery, weapons violations and assault, police said.

Santos’ rap sheet goes back to 1983. Among the New York cases were an auto theft in Queens and a robbery in Brooklyn in 1986, and robberies in East Harlem and in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in 1987 – the last of which resulted in a five-year prison term.

Santos has been in and out of prison throughout the past 25 years, and was arrested and charged dozens more times in New York and Miami – most recently for criminal trespass in public housing in Brooklyn just this past June, police said.

This was the each detective’s first police-involved shooting, and witnesses said they had their badges displayed at the time.

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