MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A man accused of an attempted robbery and shooting that caused a panic at Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island was arraigned Wednesday.
Oliver Lee, 21, of Little Neck pleaded not guilty to robbery, assault and other charges in the incident that terrified holiday shoppers and store employees.
Lee, who has a prior drug arrest on his record, is being held on $750,000 bail.
Lee allegedly walked into the Rolex section of the Tourneau store around 1 p.m. Tuesday and asked to see an $18,000 watch. He then pulled out a fully loaded .380-caliber gun and announced a robbery, according to authorities.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Nassau Police had praise for the swift and fearless response.
“Think about a violent struggle for 90 seconds over life and death, that’s what it was about,” Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said.
Retired NYPD Sgt. Kenneth Krug, a hired private security guard working at the store, wrestled Lee to the ground and the gun went off, striking a mall employee in the shoulder. The 67-year-old man was hospitalized in serious, but stable condition.
Police said the outcome could have been far worse if not for Krug.
“He was apparently in the fight of his life,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said, calling Krug “very brave.”
“Krug’s actions can only be described as heroic,” Krumpter said. “He was engaged in a life and death struggle and his actions resulted in the defendant only being able to discharge one round.”
Krug did not want to appear on camera, but he spoke to CBS2’s Janelle Burrell at his Long Island home Wednesday morning.
Krug, who was wearing a suit and armed at the time of the incident, said he was just steps from Lee when the suspect pulled out his gun, Burrell reported.
Krug said he quickly lunged at Lee, put his hand on the weapon, and both struggled to gain control of the gun.
The two wrestled until they were out of the store and in the mall, where Lee’s gun went off, Krug said.
Krug grabbed the slide and managed to jam the gun so no other bullets could be released after the first round was fired, Krumpter said.
“He had to grab that subject’s gun with his strong hand over the subject’s slide, that resulted in the gun jamming after the first shot was fired,” Krumpter said.
Krug wrote a Facebook post regarding the incident.
“A couple of knots on my forehead, maybe will knock some sense into me,” he wrote, “Say a prayer for the Macy’s employee who was shot in the shoulder, and the bullet is still lodged in his neck. They are leaving it there for now. He should be ok.”
One of two mall security officers rushed over to help restrain Lee and it was only then that Krug was able to finally pry the handgun from the suspect’s hands, Burrell reported.
Lee, who is unemployed and lives with his mother roused neighbors suspicions. They complained about alleged drug deals. Police said he had ten oxycontin pills on him when arrested, and prior to the hold up posted a picture of a gun and pills on his Facebook page.
“If you see something that alarms you, you should report,” Mangano said.
Police said they are still investigating to see if Lee had an accomplice.