NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An NYPD detective injured in a shootout with a fugitive in the West Village has been released from the hospital.
Hundreds of fellow officers cheered and clapped as Detective Mario Muniz left Bellevue Hospital in a wheelchair around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“I feel great,” Muniz said as his NYPD patrol partner, Joseph Trovato, pushed his wheelchair.
Muniz was shot in the stomach below his protective vest and in the right side of his chest during the gun battle Monday afternoon with alleged child molester Charles Mozdir, police said.
Two U.S. marshals who were also hurt in the shooting were released from the hospital Tuesday. One of them, Ryan Westfield, was at Muniz’s side Wednesday.
Mozdir was killed.
Dr. Spiros Frangos, Muniz’s surgeon, said there’s no doubt the detective’s bulletproof vest saved his life.
“Less than 48-hour hospitalization for a gunshot wound to the abdomen, that’s good news,” Frangos told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
“The one bullet that did get through — he was very fortunate,” the surgeon added. “It went all the way from the right side of his abdomen to the left side of his abdomen and didn’t hit any vital organs.”
The law enforcement officers cheering Muniz’s Bellevue goodbye knew they could have been getting ready for a funeral instead.
“It’s certainly nothing short of a miracle to be shot at point-blank range numerous times and be fortunate enough to have one of these rounds deflected by the bulletproof vest,” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association.
Muniz will spend the next few weeks recovering at his home, Aiello reported.
One bullet is still inside his body. A Bellevue trauma doctor told Aiello they often leave a bullet inside a shooting victim because it sometimes does more harm than good to locate and remove it.
The gunfire erupted when Muniz and the U.S. marshals, all members of the Regional Fugitive Task Force, tried to arrest Mozdir around 1 p.m. Monday at Smoking Culture on West Fourth Street.
The 32-year-old Mozdir was being sought for allegedly molesting the 7-year-old son of close friends in California in 2012, authorities said.
A $1 million bench warrant was issued for his arrest in June 2012 after he skipped an arraignment in San Diego on child sexual assault charges, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney said.
Mozdir also had been charged with attempting to dissuade a witness from prosecution, the criminal complaint said. He had posted $250,000 bail.
Police said they received a tip on Mozdir’s whereabouts after he was recognized on CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh” last week.
“We started getting information that he was near a smoke shop, which made sense,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Steve Jurman. “He had a history of working in smoke shops. He had a hobby of blowing glass, which would come in handy at a smoke shop.”
Some of the information that helped marshals track Mozdir to the West Village came from a woman he once dated, CBS 2 reported. He had been living in Alphabet City and was using the pseudonym “John Smith,” authorities said.
“The way he just stared at you, and just not friendly and … just gave out bad vibes,” neighbor Natasha Challapally told Aiello.
“It is very scary because you don’t know who’s living around you, who’s working around you,” Palladino said.
Muniz was driven to Bellevue from the shooting scene. His mother, Carmen, arrived just as he went into emergency surgery.
“When I saw him, I just went to him and I kissed him, and I say ‘I love you’ and ‘God, please don’t take my son,'” she said.
Federal marshals in California led the hunt for Mozdir and had previously tracked him to Georgia, where he dumped his car and disappeared.
“He was definitely living (on) cash with a good fake ID,” Jurman said. “He was off our grid for sure.”
After tracking him by his cellphone to the smoke shop, Muniz walked into the store and found Mozdir apparently alone, police said.
When he left and returned with the U.S. marshals, police said Mozdir pulled out a gun and opened fire. Police sources told CBS 2 that surveillance video shows Mozdir pulling a pistol out of his pocket during a struggle with cops.
“Mozdir fired upon the officers at very close range, and the officer returned fire,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
The detective didn’t fire his weapon, but the federal agents fired multiple rounds, authorities said.
Bratton said one U.S. marshal was shot in the elbow and another in his buttocks.
A .32-caliber handgun was recovered at the scene and investigators said 20 additional rounds were found in Mozdir’s pockets.
Police are still investigating his time in New York to determine whether he committed any other crimes.
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