By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN — Prosecutors will try to delay the indictment of a man who survived 21 bullets in a deadly Harlem police shootout on Aug. 8 in an effort to keep him in jail while they investigate the case further, his attorney said.
Instead of presenting the case against Angel Alvarez, 23, to a grand jury by Thursday — a deadline imposed by laws restricting the amount of time a suspect can be held without a grand-jury indictment — the Manhattan District Attorney intends to hold a rare "preliminary hearing" during which police at the scene of the shootout will likely testify, Alvarez's attorney Matthew Galluzzo said.
The DA hopes the testimony will show "probable cause" that Alvarez committed a crime, allowing him to be held for up to 45 days, Galluzzo said.
Alvarez was arrested Saturday upon his discharge from Harlem Hospital and initially charged with attempted murder by police. But by the time of his criminal court arraignment on Monday, prosecutors had only charged him with three counts of weapons possession.
"The investigation is open and active," a DA spokesperson said Monday, when asked about the reduction in charges.
Police and witnesses said Alvarez, who has a 2005 weapons possession conviction, sparked an Aug. 8 gun battle that killed 21-year-old Luis Soto when "a feud that had been simmering" for weeks turned violent at a cookout on Lenox Avenue, between 143rd and 144th streets.
When Alvarez got the upper hand in the fight, Soto allegedly reached for a gun in his waistband, prompting a struggle. Police on the scene said Alvarez grabbed the .38 revolver and fired it at police before the officers fired 46 times.
One plainclothes officer was shot in the chest and saved by his bullet-proof vest. Another was shot in the hand.
The bullet that killed Soto in the melee was fired by police, prosecutors said Monday.
No charges have been filed in connection to Soto's death.
Thursday's hearing is expect to pertain only to the current weapons charges. A Manhattan Supreme Court judge must decide whether to grant an extension to prosecutors based on whether there was "probable cause" to charge Alvarez with gun possession.
His attorney has argued that the gun belonged to Soto and Alvarez swiped the gun from Soto in an act of self-defense.
"This hearing does not result in charges. This hearing is a legal proceeding only," Galluzzo said.
It is not yet known whether the hearing will be public.