BROOKLYN — An NYPD officer shot an alleged gang member after telling him to not reach for a gun he'd dropped while trying to flee a car crash in Crown Heights Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The shooting happened as the officer, who was not identified, was out issuing tickets and spotted a white Ford Mustang "driving very recklessly," on Empire Boulevard near Brooklyn Avenue at about 12:10 p.m., NYPD Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez said during a press conference.
The officer caught up to the muscle car in his patrol cruiser and tried to stop the vehicle, Gomez said.
The 24-year-old driver, Kareem Thomas — who was identified by his lawyer and who police said had 15 prior arrests including gun possession and manslaughter — then took off and crashed the getaway car into a flatbed truck delivering drywall, the chief said. He then jumped out of the car holding a gun and took off running.
The officer caught up to him in front of 609 Montgomery Ave., where the suspect fell and dropped his semi-automatic Ruger handgun, police said.
"Don't reach for the gun," the officer told the suspect, according to sources.
"The individual does not heed those warnings, attempts to grab the gun," Gomez said. "Our officer discharges his firearm twice, striking the individual one time in the lower abdomen."
More police swarmed around Thomas as he lay handcuffed on the ground wailing, according to video posted to local news sites. The gun was found at the scene.
"Ow, my back!" he shouts at one point.
"Who shot me? Why you shot me for?" he appears to say in the video.
Police urged him to "stay calm" and other officers were told to "put your foot on him," according to the video.
Thomas had been in Brooklyn court earlier Wednesday to pick a trial date for an attempted murder case against him, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office.
His family was "hysterical" after finding out about the shooting, according to Thomas' lawyer, Damion Brown.
"Some of them are en route to the hospital," Brown said.
It was not immediately clear if Thomas owned the Mustang.
The Mustang has racked up four unpaid tickets, according to Department of Finance records.
The car was ticketed for parking in front of a fire hydrant outside 373 Montauk Ave., in East New York, about 10 p.m. Sept. 22.
It was ticketed for speeding through a school zone on Eastern Parkway about 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 6.
It was ticketed for parking in front of a fire hydrant outside 1020 E. 57th St., in Flatlands, about 5:40 a.m. Nov. 8, records show.
And finally for speeding through another Eastern Parkway school zone about 1:50 p.m. on Nov. 10.
Gomez praised the officer's conduct.
"He did an admirable job," the chief said. "He was solo, utilized good tactics. He gave warnings. These warnings were heard by witnesses. He did a good job."
The MTA was rerouting B43 buses because of the shooting. Riders should check the MTA's website for service updates.