'Suicide by cop' eyed in Brooklyn police-involved traffic stop shooting

BATH BEACH, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Police officials believe so called "suicide by cop" may be the motive behind a deadly police-involved traffic stop shooting on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn Thursday.

Authorities say 65-year-old Brian Astarita was holding a BB gun as he advanced on an officer, an apparent attempt to die by provoking police into opening fire.

It happened around 4 p.m. in the eastbound lanes near the Bay 8th Street exit in Bath Beach, where an NYPD highway officer stopped a Jeep Cherokee for speeding.

As she approached the vehicle, the driver fled, and the officer followed the vehicle, eventually pulling her unmarked vehicle in front of his car.

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The suspect rear-ended the officer and continued eastbound on the highway, police said.

The officer requested backup, and with the help of an additional highway unit, they pulled the vehicle over 200 yards east of the Bay Parkway Avenue entrance.

They say Astarita, the sole occupant, exited the Jeep and moved toward the officers with the gun.

The officers told him to drop the weapon, but he continued to advance, prompting them to fire multiple rounds.

Astarita was struck several times and died at the hospital.

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Witnesses jumped into action to stop the suspect from getting away and helped the victim off the tracks to safety.


No officers were injured.

Police said the man had seven prior arrests.

"It's a dangerous situation," NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said Thursday. "It's unfortunate there had to be a negative ending, but we did what we had to do to stop the threat."

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