Fatal police shooting follows car chase in WH
by Daniel P. Bader
As officers approached the smashed up silver Cadillac on W. 188th that they had just chased through the streets and sidewalks all over Northern Manhattan on the evening of Wed., July 22, the driver, nicknamed Flaco, gunned the engine at an approaching plainclothes officer, who fired one fatal shot through the windshield, according to police.
“He guns the car towards the police officer. Obviously feeling threatened, the officer fired one shot into the windshield,” said Deputy Inspector Andrew Capul, commander of the 34th Police Precinct.
Police arrested the three other men in the vehicle. The driver, who was pinned beneath the steering wheel, was extricated and put into an ambulance.
Initial reports said the officer fired twice, but Capul said the first shot came during a different encounter with the vehicle. That shot missed its target, he said, and no one else was injured by the bullet.
The wild car chase started around 7:30 p.m. after a man claimed to have been robbed outside of the McDonald’s restaurant on Broadway and W. 170th Street, according to Capul.
The man who was allegedly robbed told nearby police about the incident and they pursued the Cadillac, driven by Flaco – “Skinny” in Spanish – who tried to lose his pursuers by driving on sidewalks and heading north on the Henry Hudson Parkway. Police caught up with the silver Cadillac again on Dyckman Street, chasing Flaco back into Washington Heights.
The Cadillac again eluded police by ramming a patrol car backwards, slamming into five or six other cars and speeding off. Capul said police cornered the vehicle on W. 188th Street behind a double-parked car.
Manhattan Times staffer and community activist Rafael Gomez Luna was in the area at the time of the shooting and saw other police cars racing to join the pursuit. “Everyone was going there at a very fast pace,” he said.
“The police did not allow anyone to get onto the block for hours,” Luna said. “People were kind of upset because they couldn’t go home.”
Luna estimated that roughly 200 people had congregated outside the blocked off street. High above the block a police helicopter hovered, shining a light onto the street.
“There were many, many stories,” Luna said, describing how rumors began to spread. “People were kind of upset because they couldn’t go home.”
Luna said that at approximately 11:30 p.m. residents were escorted by police to their apartments two-by-two.
Police are now looking for the man who reported being robbed, believing the incident arose from a drug deal gone bad, not a stick-up.
If found, the man could be charged with falsely reporting a crime.
“I guess the people who had the money taken wanted them arrested,” Capul said.
On Thu., July 23, friends of Flaco, some noticeably intoxicated, had erected a makeshift shrine with an empty bottle of liquor and a can of Mountain Dew underneath a photo of the man at W. 190th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.
No one at the shrine would speak to a reporter except one man, who declined to give his name. He said it was Flaco’s first time behind the wheel. The friend also said the shrine was set up in tribute to the spot where the slain man used to hang out with friends.
Local leaders were informed personally by Capul the night of the shooting. Another call with updates went out on Thu., July 23.
“I had a resident call me and tell me there was a shooting on the block,” said Community Board 12 Chair Manny Velazquez. Then later, he received the call from the police.
“They did inform me everything was under control but that there was a fatality,” he said.
“Until all the facts come out it would be unfair to rush to judgment.
“I ask residents to be calm and patient,” he added.
The offices of Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat and City Council Member Robert Jackson said they were also given preliminary information and were waiting for more details.
“It’s unfortunate that it led to the killing of someone,” Espaillat said. “I’m glad that the police responded.”
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.