Cop accidentally kills store worker in Bronx standoff

September 7, 2012 8:14:43 PM PDT
A Bronx deli employee is dead, apparently shot by police, and three men who were holed up inside the store are under arrest.

The incident began with a grocery store robbery on East 169th Street and Franklin Avenue in the Morrisania section around 2 a.m. Friday. It ended with the three suspects being taken into custody by 6:30 a.m.

Authorities say the Natalie Grocery Store had just closed for the night when a passerby spotted a masked man pointing a gun at a clerk's head inside and called police, who quickly responded and surrounded the building.

Police say two of the suspects, identified as Orlando Ramos and Ernesto Delgado, saw the police presence and fled to the back of the store and into the basement.

That allowed the night manager to open the metal gate in front of the store and sneak out, walking towards officers with his hands raised. Another employee, identified as 20-year-old Reynaldo Cuevas and also the store owner's nephew, then followed. But in his haste to escape the suspects, police say he ran directly into a police officer. They became entangled, according to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and the officer's gun discharged into Cuevas' chest.

He rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Witness Jose Garcia told Eyewitness News that Cuevas was running and didn't put his hands up.

"The there people that were robbing the store, they ran to the back," he said. "So that's when the guy got up from the floor, opened the gate, came up with his hands up. His nephew, who was working with him that night, he was trying to follow him. But he ran, but he didn't put his hands up. That's when the police, he fell, and police shot him."

Eyewitness News spoke to a woman who said she was in the store moments before the situation unfolded. She said she did not notice a robbery in progress, but was across the street when she heard all the commotion.

"We came out the building, got across the street," she said. "Once we got across the street, on 169 and Franklin, we heard a gunshot. The cops was already flooded around the store. The boy dropped. When I turned around, the boy dropped."

Police say the third suspect, identified as Christopher Dorsey, followed the employees outside and surrendered. The other two holed up inside, sparking the standoff as police attempted to determine if the suspects were alone in the store or if they had a hostage.

Delgado surrenderd four hours later around 5:30 a.m, according to police. Afte that, officers entered the store around 6:30 a.m. and arrested Ramos, who they found tied to a pole in the basement, allegedly pretending to be a victim.

Authorities say an unloaded .32-caliber handgun was found in bags of birdseed on the grocery store shelves. A backpack belonging to one of the suspects was also recovered. Police say it contained $718, packs of Newport cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets.

Demonstrators took to the street Friday night and aimed their anger at police as they claimed the corner of the Bronx and lifted candles to the sky in memory of 20-year-old Reynaldo Cuevas.

Fernando Mateo spoke with Cuevas' mother.

"She's in a state of shock. She believes her son was murdered," said Fernando Mateo, of the Bodega Association of the United Station.

Police say it was an accident, and they have released video to support their case.

Cuevas collided with the cop on his way out of the store. The cop had drawn his gun and it fired.

"The two became entangled at which point we believe the officer accidentally discharged his weapon with one round accidentally entering Mr. Cuevas' shoulder," New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

That explanation has not satisfied those who knew Cuevas like Maricela Rodriguez.

"He was like a son to me," Rodriguez said.

Late in the day, police slapped the three robbery suspects with numerous charges including second degree murder.

Meanwhile, an officer was seriously injured when he was involved in an accident while responding to the scene.

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