NYPD Detective and 2 US Marshals Hurt in Deadly Shootout With Sex Offender
GREENWICH VILLAGE — An accused California child molester on the run was killed and three law enforcement officers were wounded during a Greenwich Village shootout Monday afternoon, authorities said.
Based on a tip from a CNN crime news show that aired earlier this month, a federal fugitive task force made up of officers from various agencies was trying to arrest Charles Mozdir, 32, at about 1:10 p.m. inside Smoking Culture, at 177 West 4th St., sources said.
Mozdir was wanted for molesting a 7-year-old boy he had been babysitting in Coronado, California in June 2012, according to a Coronado police department spokeswoman. CNN's show "The Hunt with John Walsh" featured Mozdir's story and clean-cut mugshot during a July 17 broadcast.
As a result of information gathered after that show, federal officials tracked Mozdir through his cell phone as he worked in the West 4th Street shop on Monday. There, they saw a transformed Mozdir, masked by a large beard and long stringy hair and covered in torso tattoos.
When officers moved in to arrest him, he turned and opened fire, sources said.
First-grade Detective Mario Muniz, a 21-year veteran, was shot once in the stomach just below his bulletproof vest, sources said. One marshal was shot in the elbow and the other in the backside.
Mozdir was shot 10 times, the sources said. He was pronounced dead at the Lenox Hill Healthplex at the old St. Vincent's. His .32-caliber revolver was found at the scene, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
The marshals and detective who were hit were taken to Bellevue Hospital, officials said.
"It appears that the injuries to the officers are not life threatening," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during an unrelated press conference with Bratton.
The mayor and commissioner held up Muniz's bulletproof vest during a later press conference at Bellevue Hospital, pointing to a chest-level hole where the officer was shot.
Mozdir was accused of molesting the son of high school friends, according to the Coronado police spokeswoman who added that when investigators searched his phone and computer they found child pornography and images of bestiality. He was also charged with coercing the victim and the parents not to press charges.
When Mozdir, a hulking 6-foot-2, 280-pound man, failed to appear at a June 2012 court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest, the spokeswoman said. There was also a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Federal marshals tracked Mozdir to Darien, Georgia, where they found his car hidden in a field, the spokeswoman said, and believed he was armed with at least two guns.
He was also traveling with his black Labrador retriever named "Lucky" and was known for being able to survive off the land.
But instead of roughing it, Mozdir fled to the city and got a job at the smoke shop, where neighbors told police he had worked for at least a year, sources said.
Witnesses watched as emergency responders pulled the law enforcement officers and the wounded fugitive from the smoke shop.
Video at the scene shows first responders administering chest compressions to Mozdir, who is covered in tattoos and appears to have grown a beard and long hair.
"[The suspect] didn't look like he was going to make it. He was all pale. He looked like he was probably dead already," said Jason Smith, 54.
The United States Marshals Service did not immediately have additional information.
De Blasio thanked the officers for their courage during the Bellevue press conference.
“These two marshals and the NYPD detective exhibited extraordinary bravery," de Blasio said. "They had to deal with an incredibly difficult situation, split second decisions, and they do what law enforcement personnel do every day — they have to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. And these three men did that.”
With reporting by Janon Fisher, Ben Fractenberg and Gustavo Solis.