A confrontation on the 4 train turned deadly at Brooklyn's Borough Hall train station last night when a retired correction officer shot and killed one of two men who were allegedly harassing him. An eyewitness said, "They were acting drunk, very loud and obnoxious. They started picking on [the officer]."
Around 6:30 p.m., the former correction officer, Will Groomes, 69, was on a train with Gilbert Drogheo, 32, and his 29-year-old friend. The NY Times reports that Groomes had "stepped between the two, friends who were having a conversation, the police said, at which point an argument ensued. The argument turned physical on the train, the police said, and one of the younger men spit on the retired officer."
One witness, Thomas Berry, told the Daily News, "They were talking mad trash."
[Berry] said that either Drogheo or his friend told the older man: “Oh, I got you now, my n-----,” as the retired officer tried to walk between the pair to get on the train...
All three men were black, police said, but Berry said one appeared to be Hispanic.
“(The older man) said, ‘I’m not your n-----, I’m not your boy,’” the witness said. “He said, ‘Leave me alone, don’t talk to me.’ He was being really calm.”
But the dispute heated up as the train left the station and traveled through the tunnel under the East River, then turned violent when one member of the duo punched the retired correction officer in the head as he tried to get off at Borough Hall, Berry and police said.
“He just clocked the guy,” the witness said. “The older man was taken back. I saw him pull the gun out of the pocket.”
Berry says that Groomes put the gun towards his attacker's side, but the attack then shoved him off, "Everyone said ‘gun’ and ran off the train. I was standing there in shock. I didn’t know what happened."
When Groomes, Drogheo and Drogheo's companion went upstairs to the mezzanine level, the confrontation escalated again. Video shows Groomes and Drogheo pushing and shoving each other, and Groomes then fired into Drogheo's torso while standing near a subway turnstile and emergency exit. At one point in the video, which features Groomes apparently walking around the station, witnesses can be heard yelling at Groomes, "Don't shoot!"
A witness told WABC 7, "Like a pow, pow sound. Like a firecracker, but then I said, 'That's not a firecracker, that sounds more like a gunshot."
Drogheo was pronounced dead at Brooklyn Hospital. Groomes and Drogheo's friend were both taken into custody for questioning.
Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, said that Groomes was licensed to carry the gun, which had been in a holster. He contends Groomes was going to be robbed, and says, "I believe the correction officer defended himself."