A truly strange story unfolded yesterday after initial reports that a police officer had been shot at Sixth Avenue and Prospect Place in Brooklyn. It turns out that the husband of an NYPD officer shot at an unmarked police SUV carrying four cops. And the wife, police officer Jacqueline Melendez-Rivera, tried to cover up her husband's actions.
Yesterday morning around 4AM, Jose Rivera drove his SUV next to the unmarked police SUV, which carried four plainclothes police officers. According to Newsday, "the officers exchanged an uneasy glance" with Rivera and his passenger. Rivera yelled, "You got a beef?", shot twice at the police SUV and sped away. The police returned fire, shooting 13 times at Rivera's SUV, but Rivera got away. One of Rivera's bullets hit Officer Andrew Suarez (pictured), who was driving, under his bulletproof vest. The Daily News says the the bullet went "underneath Officer Andrew Suarez's bulletproof vest, hitting him in the armpit and lodging in the back of his neck, just an inch from his spine." His fellow officers then drove to Methodist Hospital a few blocks away.
As police swarmed the neighborhood, complete with helicopters, looking for the Acura, they found it at Prospect and Fourth Avenues. Officer Melendez-Rivera, who has been on the force for 13 years, was driving, and claimed she was just looking for a parking space. But they she started crying and gave up the story. Then the police raided her home at 33 St. Marks Avenue and arrested Rivera and his friend. In the afternoon, the police found a Ruger in the backyard; police are conducting tests to see if it was the weapon used in the shooting.
Melendez-Rivera, who is eight months pregnant, was charged with evidence tampering, hindering prosecution, possession of marijuana, and suspended from the force. Rivera was charged with attempted murder, defacing a firearm, criminal possession of marijuana, and more; Rivera had served a prison sentence for shooting someone in a leg. The Daily News reports that Melendez-Rivera, who is the domestic violence officer for the 81st Precinct, has been "twice investigated by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau for associating with Latin Kings gang members." She has three other children, two with an ex-husband and one with Rivera. The NY Times said that Melendez-Rivera, a Gulf War vet, had caused a bit of a stir in the neighborhood by parking her SUV in front of a fire hydrant - "with her Police Department permit displayed on the dashboard.
And Suarez is in critical but stable condition. Mayor Bloomberg visited him, saying, "Thank God it wasn't any worse than it was," and noted that this was the first police officer shot this year and hoped it was the last. Suarez was wearing an older version of the NYPD's bulletproof vests, which lacks extra coverage.
Photograph of the police securing the general area of the shooting by Peter Morgan/AP