On a perfect Sunday in May, police were searching amidst the flowering trees and bright green lawns of Queens Village for a handgun that had been used to shoot a 25-year-old police officer in the head the night before.
Police Officer Brian Moore and his partner, Police Officer Erik Jansen, had been working plainclothes in an unmarked car just after 6 p.m. on Saturday. They were coming to the corner of 212th Street and 104th Road with Moore at the wheel when they spotted a man fumbling with something in his jeans waistband.
That is the sort of observation that skeptics scoff at as just a pretext for conducting a stop and frisk. And, with the world the way it presently is, nobody could have blamed the two cops if they just cruised on past.
Training and experience and instinct told Moore and his partner that their man might have a gun-a gun that could be used kill an innocent. Murder is up 100 percent in their precinct, the 105th, compared to last May.
Moore’s foot went from accelerator to brake and he pulled over. Moore reportedly called to the man, asking him what he was doing. The cops had yet even to get out of the car when their instincts were suddenly proven all too correct.
The man responded to Moore’s question by pulling a handgun and firing multiple times. One of the bullets struck Moore in the head and exited through his cheek.
He was fighting for his life while much of the city was out in the sunshine, enjoying a New York that had been turned into the safest big city in America. At Jamaica Hospital, Moore was listed in critical condition and placed in a medically inducted coma to facilitate intubation, but initially doctors described his wounds as “not life threatening.”
After four hours of surgery, he was said to have taken a turn for the worse, reportedly suffering brain bleed and swelling. He was fighting for his life while much of the city was out in the sunshine, enjoying a New York that had been turned into the safest big city in America, thanks to the efforts and sacrifice of Moore and his thousands of fellow officers.
Moore is the son and nephew of retired NYPD sergeants and they were keeping vigil at his bedside along with the rest of his family. A sister was hurried there from Florida. The hallway was lined with cops, some in uniform, others in civilian clothes, all sharing the same somber expression, knowing that the very worst can befall the very best of them.
One visitor left the hospital and described the outlook with a single word that seemed all the more impossible as the wondrous May morning had given away to an even better afternoon:
And then the news came: he had passed on.
After the shooting, a neighbor had told police that she had seen the gunman vault a fence, cut through a yard and scurry into a house three doors down. Police arrested 35-year-old Demetrius Blackwell and charged him with attempted murder of a police officer.
But more than an hour had elapsed between the shooting and the arrest, affording Blackwell ample time to hide or pass off the gun. He had stood outside, smoking cigarettes and seeming like calm personified shortly before he was grabbed.