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2 New York City police officers hurt in shootout with moped-riding robbery suspect: Officials

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(NEW YORK) — Two New York City police officers are recovering from injuries after both were shot early Monday while chasing a moped-riding suspect authorities described as an undocumented migrant from Venezuela.

The shooting unfolded in the borough of Queens, where the injured officers were working early Monday to address recent robbery patterns in the area. Victims had their cellphones snatched from their hands and at least one robbery victim was assaulted by suspects riding mopeds and scooters, according police.

One of the injured officers, 26-year-old Richard Yarusso, who joined the NYPD nearly three years ago, was saved by his bulletproof vest, which stopped a bullet from hitting him in the torso, officials said.

During a news conference Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams held up the officer’s body armor and pointed to a bullet hole, saying, “Because of this vest, a young police officer is going home.”

Adams, a former NYPD police captain, described the shooting as a “senseless act of violence, a total disregard for life.”

The other injured officer, Christopher Abreu, also 26, and a five-year veteran of the NYPD, was shot in the leg, according to NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban, who called the shooting another reminder of how NYPD officers “put themselves on the line to make sure our city is safe.”

“Every day, they go toward the danger and we saw it again early this morning,” Caban said.

Officers Yarusso and Abreu are assigned to the 115 Precinct’s public safety team and were working in East Elmhurst, Queens, when at 1:40 a.m. ET they saw the suspect, identified by police as Bernardo Raul Castro Mato, driving an unregistered moped the wrong way on a one-way street and attempted to pull him over, Caban said.

“The suspect then fled on foot and our officers began a foot pursuit, which led for several blocks,” Caban said. “During the pursuit, the suspect fired multiple rounds at our officers, who then returned fire.”

The suspect, according to police, was shot in the right leg and taken to New York Presbyterian Queens Hospital, where he was undergoing surgery Monday morning. An illegal firearm was recovered at the scene, police said.

Yarusso and Abreu were treated at Elmhurst Hospital and released, emerging from the hospital to the applause of fellow officers.

Patrick Hendry, president of the New York City Police Benovelent Association, said the actions of both Yarusso and Abreu were “heroic.”

Hendry said Yarusso likely saved Abreu’s life by putting a tourniquet on his injured leg.

“That’s what partners do in the NYPD,” Hendry said. “They save each other’s lives and that’s what happened here today.”

NYPD Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny said Castro is a suspect in several robbery patterns, which each pattern involving hundreds of incidents.

“Many of these crimes have all been committed by the perpetrators riding on scooters and motorbikes,” Kenny said.

Kenny said the number of robbery patterns citywide involving assailants on mopeds and scooters has totaled 80 so far this year.

Kenny said the suspect has been living at a former Courtyard Marriot Hotel in Queens that was converted into a shelter for migrants.

The suspect is from Venezuela who entered the U.S in July 2023 by illegally crossing into the country from Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, according to Kenny.

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