Investigation continues in deadly Harlem shooting

August 9, 2010 8:43:14 PM PDT
A shooting at a block party in Harlem ended with more than 40 bullets fired and four people shot, one fatally.

Two NYPD officers were among the wounded.

Family members say Angel Alverez made it through surgery and is alert and talking. At this point, the 23-year-old Alvarez is not in police custody and has not been charged with anything. But that could change as investigators take a closer look at what happened.

It is a shocking sight to see a man with 21 gunshot wounds still alive.

"He appeared to have a gunshot wound to his face, chest, abdomen, perhaps arms and legs," John Carney, Alvarez's attorney said.

The question amid the scores of fired rounds, and all of the people injured and the one man, Luis Soto, who died, is what set off the gunfire?

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says Alvarez and Soto struggled for control of a handgun.

"Witnesses say Alvarez had the gun in his possession, and other witnesses say that Soto had the gun in his possession, and witnesses say there was a struggle over the gun, so they may have both have had possession of the same gun," Kelly said.

Sometime during that struggle police showed up, responding to the sound of gunfire, they saw the handgun the two men were struggling for and the police opened fire.

Police believe Alvarez fired the handgun but his lawyer wants to know why police didn't do tests to find out when they brought him to the hospital.

"That's the time that the police had full control of my client, and could have simply swabbed his hands, and found the traces of beryllium and iron that would be present if you fired a gun," Carney said.

Meanwhile, friends and family gathered outside Luis Soto's home in the Bronx to mourn his death, completley aware that the 22-year-old is now at the center of the investigation. Late Monday police confirmed that it was likely a bullet from an officers gun that killed Soto.

"He was a good kid, didn't carry a gun on him," cousin Daniel Rodriguez said. "A good kid, didn't deserve that."

Police say Alvarez shot Soto following a fight that erupted around 3 a.m. at a block party near Lenox Avenue and 144th Street. What happened next is still unclear, except for the fact that it was sheer chaos.

"We got out of a cab, and it just sounded like Vietnam out here," one witness said.

The suspect, Angel Alvarez insists the victim, Luis Soto had the gun.

Police ballistics experts believe it was Alvarez who fired the gun, first at Soto, then at arriving officers.

The officers fired 46 shots at the men. The first officers fired twice, two others, in plain clothes fired 16 shots, a third officer fired 12 shots.

By the time the smoke cleared, Soto was dead and Alvarez was critically wounded, struck at least 21 times.

"Angel Alvarez, we believe, shot the individual he was arguing with on the west side of Lenox Avenue and then fired at the approaching police officers," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

hings were so tense that officer Michael Tedeschi was shot, not by Alvarez, but by a fellow officer. His bullet-resistant vest may have saved his life.

Another cop was grazed in the hand.

In all of the confusion, responding officers cuffed Soto.

Alverez' relatives say bullets hit his abdomen and chest and insist he wasn't carrying the .38 caliber revolver that police claim he was, a gun recovered at the scene.

"If he was in a situation where he had to defend himself, he would use his hands first," sister Tisch Craft said.

The family has hired an attorney, who says several witnesses confirm the family's suspicions.

"The other individual had a weapon," lawyer John Carney said. "And it may have been that he was being fired upon by the police, and that my client was also shot during the incident.

Police say Soto was shot five times. Police are reviewing surveillance video from the area. Alverez' attorney also says several witnesses have cell phone video.