WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A runaway police car sent uptown pedestrians scrambling on Tuesday afternoon when it rolled across several lanes of traffic and crashed to a halt into the wall of a deli.
The surreal scene at the intersection of Wadsworth Avenue and West 182nd Street began just after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday with officers chasing a man carrying a book bag — one block away from the 34th Precinct stationhouse.
Two officers on foot tackled the man to the ground on a sidewalk at the northwest corner of the intersection as an additional officer drove up in a precinct squad car and hopped out to join the fray, security footage obtained by DNAinfo New York shows.
Suddenly, the unattended NYPD vehicle, which had its lights flashing, began rolling backwards across the intersection, sending two women — one of who had a stroller — racing for their lives, the video shows.
Two men ran up and desperately tried to stop the car, including a man dressed in Army fatigues, who tried to leap into the driver's seat. The NYPD cruiser finally crashed to a halt against the wall of the Family Candy and Deli at 177 Wadsworth Ave., video shows.
Witnesses said the NYPD officers were acting carelessly with the lives of those nearby.
"They were so anxious to catch him, they didn't put the car in brake," said one eyewitness, who declined to give her name.
The car rolled diagonally through the intersection over two construction sawhorses and knocked off the car's rear tail light, broke tiles on the deli and dented its metal security grate, deli workers said.
"I saw the car coming back, and it hit the wall," deli employee Maud Talabah said. Talabah added that officers came by later and told him to visit the station in two days to pick up a police report.
"They weren't worried about the wall," he said of the officers who visited the scene. "They were taking pictures of the car."
Sources said the suspect that began the chase, a 37-year-old man accused of throwing a brick at a nearby building, was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and resisting arrest.
Officials from the 34th Precinct and NYPD headquarters did not immediately return requests for comment.
The incident was the second involving an unattended police vehicle in the past 24 hours.
A suspected drug dealer being transported to the 104 Precinct stationhouse Monday night was able to slip out of his handcuffs, get behind the wheel, hit a detective and escape after two detectives left him unattended in the car while they got out.