NYPD: Detective shot in leg heroically shielded fellow cops from gunfire
The officers were executing a search warrant when they suddenly found themselves under fire
By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A gutsy NYPD narcotics detective cheated death while protecting his colleagues’ lives when a hulking gunman opened fire on cops taking down a major Staten Island drug operation in the Thursday morning darkness.
Detective Dominick Libretti, bleeding badly from a gunshot wound to his leg, spared his brothers in blue from harm by holding his ballistic shield in place as ex-con Nelson Pizarro squeezed off at least a dozen bullets at them from inside his second-floor bedroom at the end of a long hallway, police said.
The decorated 10-year police veteran, married just four months ago, was taken into surgery for what NYPD Surgeon Eli Kleinman described as a “possibly career-ending injury and certainly a life-threatening injury” that the hero officer was expected to survive.
“I have to highlight and emphasize the heroics of the detective who was shot and the extraordinary team of officers who were in a fight for their lives,” said NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
The 33-year-old cop became the second NYPD officer shot this week — and the third hit by gunfire in the first 20 days of 2022.
His fellow cops returned his lifesaving favor, first using a towel to staunch the blood from Libretti’s wound on the scene before rushing him in an NYPD squad car to Staten Island University Hospital North.
A police source described him as conscious and alert when he reached the facility.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Pizarro carries a rap sheet of seven prior New York arrests but was not the target of the drug investigation. The 39-year-old peered out of his second-floor room as the cops arrived around 6 a.m. and grabbed his gun, with four officers returning fire once he shooting started, authorities said.
“He sees them on the stairs,” said a police source. “Everything they’re wearing says ‘police’ and they’re shouting ‘Police, police, search warrant!’ He retreats back into the room, closes the door, gets the gun, opens fire through the door — sustained fire.”
Pizarro, who was in the last of three bedrooms in the hallway, was wounded in his leg during the gunfight on a tree-lined residential street. His weapon was recovered at the scene.
Police also arrested the target of the warrant, suspected drug dealer Anthony Marshall, 40, a recidivist with a pair of previous arrests for criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Police said Marshall, targeted in a long-term investigation, was dealing in “felony weight” crack and cocaine out of the Staten Island home.
The wounded detective was part of a narcotics team executing a search warrant at the residence on Rockne St. near Elwood Ave. around 6 a.m. When cops went inside, Pizarro began blasting with a 9-mm. Beretta pistol that can hold up to 15 bullets, hitting the detective in the leg, officials said.
“I’m just standing here drinking coffee, and I see a bunch of cops,” said a 43-year-old neighborhood eyewitness, who would only identify himself as Chris. “And then I hear bam, bam, bam, bam!”
A few moments later he heard a cop screaming, “Officer down! Officer down!”
A 12-year-old girl who typically sleeps in one of the second-floor bedrooms was instead staying on a first-floor couch when the bullets started flying and avoided any injury, a police source said.
But one of two dogs inside Pizarro’s bedroom took a bullet in the fray, cops said
Pizarro was taken to Richmond University Medical Center. He’s charged with attempted murder of a police officer, assault on a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon, cops said late Thursday.
Paul DiGiacomo, the president of the Detectives Endowment Association union, blamed the state’s bail reform legislation for the city’s recent increases in crime.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that ... there is a direct connection to shootings, drug dealing and violent crime,” he said. “It’s clearly not working. People are dying at an alarming rate.
“Unless we get the help we need to get the guns off our streets, and keep repeat offenders in jail, gunmen will continue to rule our city.”
Neighbors said they were long suspicious of the business operating from the second-floor apartment. Visitors driving flashy high-end cars and riding dirt bikes would often roll up to the home and head inside, emerging a short time later with large duffel bags.
“There were always people coming in and out,” said one leery local. “We knew something had to be going on.”
In this year’s two prior shootings, a cop was grazed in the leg Tuesday night while scuffling with a teen gunman in the Bronx. And on Jan. 1, an off-duty cop was shot in the temple by a stray bullet as he slept in his car in between shifts in the parking lot of the 25th Precinct stationhouse in Harlem.
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