Caught on camera: Port Authority officers confronted by homeless man with gun

JAMAICA, Queens -- Eyewitness News obtained exclusive video of two Port Authority officers confronted by a man with a gun.

The officers had to make a split-second decision to shoot or not shoot.

Their reaction was all caught on camera.

When you hear talk about split second decisions and of the momentary choices police must make between life and death, this is what they're talking about.

Video shows an encounter between a homeless man walking out of the bathroom at the Jamaica AirTrain Station and two Port Authority cops manning their post.

The video shows the suspect pull a weapon from his waistband, and both officers immediately step back and draw their own guns, ordering the man to drop his.

He left it on top of a wall as the officers ordered him down to the floor.

It was a successful outcome that could have gone a million different ways.

"It's not just a split second decision, it's a nanosecond decision," said Dr. Maki Haberfeld, of John Jay College.

Haberfeld, an expert in the use of force, says it's a perfect example of how police always have to be on guard.

It happened Monday around 3:30 in the afternoon, with dozens of Kennedy Airport travelers, innocent bystanders, passing through.

The suspect, identified by the Port Authority as 35-year-old Reginald Clark, allegedly told the officers, "I have something for you," before he pulled what turned out to be an air pistol.

He later admitted he was bipolar and off his meds.

Haberfeld has trained officers on just this type of scenario, and says the officers probably didn't fire because he didn't actually point the pistol at them. But toy or not, it looks pretty real.

Had the suspect raised it any higher, he might not have survived. It's a shooting, she says, that would be perfectly justifiable.

"Any given moment, a police officer can lose his or her life, but at the same time, experience, you have a lot of information that informs whether or not the officer pulls the trigger or not," Dr. Haberfeld said.