Trending Topics

Man who shot 2 NYPD cops opened fire at point-blank range, prosecutors say

“During the struggle [the suspect]... put the gun against Officer Yarusso’s chest and shot [him] point blank range,” Queens Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reilly said

By Nicholas Williams, Rocco Parascandola and Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The 19-year-old migrant accused of shooting two NYPD cops after being caught zipping the wrong way down a one-way Queens street on a scooter opened fire at point blank range, prosecutors said Wednesday.

“This defendant is the very definition of a flight risk,” Queens Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reilly said to Judge Jeffrey Gershuny in front of a sea of more than 50 police officers there to watch Bernardo Raul Castro Mata’s arraignment in Queens Criminal Court Wednesday. “(He) was fleeing from uniformed police officers before shooting two police officers.”

Gershuny ordered Castro Mata held without bail on charges of attempted murder as well as assault, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration for the Monday shootout with police. He faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.


Bernardo Castro Mata, 19, appears in Queens Criminal Court on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Mata is charged with multiple charges including attempted murder for allegedly shooting New York Police Department officers Christopher Abreu and Richard Yarusso. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Pool/TNS)

Barry Williams/TNS

Castro Mata appeared in court via a live video feed from his hospital bed, where he is recovering from a gunshot wound to the ankle fired by one of the cops he allegedly shot.

Officers Richard Yarusso and Christopher Abreu were investigating a robbery pattern involving crooks on mopeds and scooters when they spotted Castro Mata on a scooter without a helmet zipping the wrong way on 82nd St. near 23rd Ave. in East Elmhurst around 1:40 a.m., officials said. Prosecutors in court on Wednesday called the scooter an “unregistered motorcycle.”

When the officers tried to pull the teen over, he hopped off his ride and ran off.

With one cop on foot and the other behind the wheel of the police cruiser, the officers managed to grab Castro Mata and tackle him to the ground.

“During the struggle (Castro Mata) reached inside a crossbody bag that was across his chest, removed the firearm, put the gun against Officer Yarusso’s chest and shot Officer Yarusso in the lower middle portion of his chest at point blank range,” Reilly said. “The defendant then shot Officer Abreu straight in the upper right thigh area.”

Yarusso was saved by his bullet-resistant vest, cops said. He and Abreu were both treated at Elmhurst Hospital and released hours later.

One of the cops shot Castro Mata in the ankle during the struggle. He was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital Queens for treatment.

Cops recovered Castro Mata’s .380-caliber pistol. It had two bullets left, one in the chamber and one in the magazine, prosecutors said.

“This is a senseless act of violence against those who are sworn to protect this community,” Reilly said.

Castro Mata entered the U.S. illegally from Venezuela through Eagle Pass, Tex., last July and had been staying at a Ditmars Blvd. migrant shelter that used to be the Marriott LaGuardia hotel, cops said.

Gershuny called the allegations “deeply troubling” as he ordered the teen to Rikers Island once he recovers from the hospital.

“Trying to avoid a traffic stop using violence by any means necessary to get away leaves this court with no doubt whatsoever that he would flee with any means possible,” the judge said.

When he was arrested Castro Mata was in possession of multiple credit cards, two of which were linked to gunpoint robberies in the Bronx committed by scooter-riding thieves, police said.

The migrant is the suspect in numerous robberies and a May 30 incident in which cops believe he pulled a gun on a security guard at a Lot Less store in Queens. The suspect fled from the store on the same scooter Mata was on when Yarusso and Abreu tried to pull him over, cops said.

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry said Castro Mata “has no regard for human life.”

“This individual is a violent offender and he tried to kill New York City police officers. It’s disgusting,” Hendry said outside Queens Criminal Court Wednesday. “Today this court sent a clear message that if you attack New York City police officers you are going to stay behind bars.”

On Tuesday night, a day after Yarusso and Abreu were shot, cops conducted a massive illegal vehicle crackdown in the area of Queens where the shooting occurred.

Officers seized 72 illegal ATVs, motorbikes and mopeds as well as three vehicles during the operation, cops said.

Eleven motorists were arrested and 63 summonses were issued. One of the motorists arrested in the operation, who police identified as Yeison Oviedo, was seen driving recklessly and running multiple red lights on a moped that had been reported stolen, cops said.

Oviedo, 36, who has an extensive criminal record with 25 arrests, was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, criminal possession of stolen property and reckless driving, cops said.

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell announced the success of the operation Wednesday as cops at a tow pound in Staten Island crushed scores of illegal vehicles recovered in previous seizures this year.

The vehicles were flattened by two bulldozers, a video of the crushing shows.

“These illegal vehicles have no place in New York City and that’s why they ended up here,” NYPD Commissioner Eric Caban said. “This work saves lives and has our full and focused attention. That’s our promise and we intend to keep that promise.”

So far this year, the NYPD has seized 13,000 illegal vehicles, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday. The department expects to seize more than 30,000 by the end of the year.

©2024 New York Daily News. Visit at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.