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2 NYPD officers shot in Queens while investigating string of robberies involving scooters, police say

Queens community rallies for change after 2 officers shot
Queens community rallies for change after 2 officers shot 02:57

NEW YORK -- Two NYPD officers were released from the hospital Monday after they were shot overnight in Queens. 

Police said officers Richard Yarusso and Christopher Abreu spotted a man on a moped going the wrong way on 82nd Street near 23rd Avenue while they were investigating a robbery pattern involving suspects on scooters. 

The officers, both 26, tried pulling the man over, but he took off running, according to police. 

"During the pursuit, the suspect fired multiple rounds at our officers, who then returned fire," said NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban. 

Abreu was shot in his leg. Yarusso was shot in his bulletproof vest.   

NYPD officials say this gun was recovered from the scene of a shooting that injured two officers and one suspect overnight in East Elmhurst, Queens.  NYPD

The suspect, who police identified as 19-year-old Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, was shot in his right ankle and underwent surgery. He was hospitalized in stable condition and has not yet been charged. 

"[Mata] is a suspect in several robbery patterns currently going on in the borough of Queens," said NYPD Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny. "The patterns that we're looking at currently in Queens that he's involved with involve phone snatches and instances where a woman was attacked, her credit card was stolen, and eventually used in a Queens smoke shop." 

Authorities said Mata is a Venezuelan migrant who entered the U.S. illegally in 2023 and has no prior arrests in New York City. 

Police recovered the gun and motorized scooter Mata allegedly used Monday. They said the gun was "not legally possessed."

Officers released from hospital

Officers Yarusso and Abreu received a large round of applause from fellow police and first responders as they left Elmhurst Hospital. 

Mayor Eric Adams and Caban spoke with the officers and their families at the hospital. 

"They're in good spirits, and the NYPD stands at the ready to assist them in the full recovery," said Caban, after speaking with the officers and their families.

Adams, holding the vest Yarusso was wearing, said "because of this vest, a young police officer [is] going home. Senseless act of violence, a total disregard for life."

Adams said the officers showed professionalism and discipline. 

Abreu has been with the NYPD for five years. Yarusso has two and a half years on the job. 

Calls to close shelter where suspect was living

Police said Mata had been living in a migrant shelter, called the Landing Families Shelter, at the former Marriott Hotel on Ditmars Boulevard. Some city leaders and community members called for the shelter to be shut down after his arrest. 

"How do you put 15 shelters in an area?" said Community Board Chair Frank Taylor.

"They should've never opened them," another man said. 

"Just because of one person, an entire community should not be punished for that," said Abed Islam, of Elmhurst. 

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard later told CBS New York that Mata previously stayed at the shelter, but was not living there at the time of the crime. 

CBS New York spoke with residents at the shelter who said they heard the gunshots. They said it makes them nervous the suspect had been staying there, but they said the security protocols are strict, and they have to pass through metal detectors before entering the building.

NYC robberies involving scooters on the rise

Investigators said robbery patterns involving scooters are on the rise in New York City. There were no robbery patterns in the first half of 2020, but there were 20 during the same period in 2023 and 80 so far in 2024, according to NYPD. 

"That's over 80 robbery patterns alone encompassing over hundreds and hundreds of incidents," Kenny said. 

Additionally, NYPD said its Public Safety Unit has gotten 15,000 illegal guns off the streets. 

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