NEW YORK (AP) – A man who officials say boasted of being a street “hellraiser” and served prison time for attempted murder was arraigned Sunday on charges that he shot a New York City police officer in the head.
Officer Brian Moore “is fighting for his life,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown told The Associated Press after spending many hours with the comatose 25-year-old officer.
The suspect, Demetrius Blackwell, was ordered held without bail after appearing in Queens Criminal Court in a torn white jumpsuit. His hands were cuffed behind his back and legs shackled.
He was arrested Saturday night and charged with attempted murder in Moore’s shooting.
Moore remained hospitalized in critical but stable condition after hours of surgery for what court papers described as “severe injuries to his skull and brain.” Doctors have placed him in a medically induced coma.
The 35-year-old suspect did not enter a plea during the 5-minute arraignment, for which more than 100 officers packed the courtroom. He is due back in court Friday.
Prosecutors said Sunday they intend to present the case to a grand jury before Blackwell’s next court date.
“This was nothing more and nothing less than a cold-blooded attempt at an assassination of New York’s finest,” Assistant District Attorney Peter McCormack said.
He said Moore and patrol partner Erik Jansen – both in plainclothes in an unmarked police car – approached Blackwell on a Queens street after seeing him tugging at his waistband around 6:15 p.m. Saturday and asked him “What are you carrying?”
The officers ordered Blackwell to stop and exchanged words with him. And that’s when Blackwell allegedly turned and “in a vicious manner started to fire” – at least two shots, the prosecutor said.
Jansen was not hit and radioed for help.
Officers searched house by house in the quiet Queens Village neighborhood, and some could be seen walking on roofs as helicopters flew overhead.
After Blackwell’s arrest, McCormack said three witnesses picked him out of a police lineup.
The prosecutor said Blackwell told a detective that he is known as a “hellraiser on the street.”
After the arraignment, Blackwell’s court-appointed lawyer, David Bart, told Judge Michael Yavinsky that his client was arrested at his home without a warrant and that “the arrest may be illegal.”
Both McCormack and a police spokesman declined to comment on the warrant, citing the ongoing investigation.
According to state corrections records, Blackwell was convicted in 2001 on an attempted murder charge. Brown told the AP that Blackwell pointed a handgun at the occupant of a car in a robbery attempt, then fired shots at the vehicle. Other details on the case were not immediately available.
Blackwell served the full five years of his sentence, and then returned to prison for violating parole in 2007. He was released again in 2008.
McCormack said Blackwell also was arrested in 2013 after he grabbed at an NYPD detective’s badge and spit at him.
Bart countered that his client “has no particular animus toward police officers.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday’s shooting was a painful reminder of the risks officers take every day.
“Our hearts are with his family, his loved ones,” the mayor said. “Our hearts are with his extended family, the men and women of the NYPD.”
Moore, who comes from a family of police officers, has been on the job since July 2010.
Moore’s listed address is a small, well-kept house in the Long Island hamlet of Massapequa – a tight-knit community where neighbors have known each other well for decades. Many families have relatives who are police officers.
Neighbors had only kind words for Moore, some saying they shed tears after hearing he was shot.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Moore’s family members “stand in silence with tears in their eyes, not knowing what the outcome for Brian will be.”
The shooting was the fifth of an on-duty police officer in as many months. The attack evoked fears of the December slayings of two uniformed officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, as they sat in their patrol cars in Brooklyn. The shooter had posted online that he was seeking retribution against officers for the death of Eric Garner in an apparent chokehold by police.
But Police Commissioner William Bratton said Blackwell had made no such anti-police postings and was being pursued by the anti-crime officers because of his behavior.
Associated Press writers Jake Pearson, Amanda Y. Barrett, Tom Hays and Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.
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Demetrius Blackwell appears in court for his arraignment Sunday, May 3, 2015, in the Queens borough of New York. Blackwell who is accused of shooting a New York City police officer in the head was ordered held without bail Sunday on charges including attempted murder. (Theodore Parisienne/The Daily News via AP, Pool)