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Updated: June 3, 2024, 4:54 PM

2 NYPD cops wounded in shootout with migrant teen on scooter in Queens traffic stop


Two NYPD cops were wounded in a shootout with a migrant teen on a scooter they stopped early Monday for riding the wrong way down a Queens one-way street, police said.

Officer Richard Yarusso, struck in his bullet-resistant vest, and Officer Christopher Abreu, hit in the leg, were treated at Elmhurst Hospital Center and released about six hours later.

Yarusso told his 79-year-old grandfather the shot, which caused a big bruise on his chest, “was like getting hit by a bus.”

“My wife and I are just happy that he came out OK,” said the grandfather, who declined to give his name. “Thank God for the vest.”

The suspect, 19-year-old Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, was struck in the right ankle when at least one of the officers opened fire. Castro Mata was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital Queens, where he underwent surgery. The gun he allegedly used to shoot the cops was recovered.

“This is a bullet hole,” Mayor Adams said at a press conference at Elmhurst Hospital Center as he held up the vest worn by Yarusso. “Because of this vest a young police officer is going home — senseless act of violence, a total disregard for life.”

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

The officers, both 26 and assigned to the 115th Precinct’s public safety team, were investigating an area robbery pattern involving crooks on mopeds and scooters. That’s when they spotted the suspect riding the wrong way on 82nd St. near 23rd Ave. in East Elmhurst about 1:40 a.m., NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said.

They tried to pull him over but the teen got off the scooter and ran off.

“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.”

A police official said the officers were able to catch up to the suspect and that during the ensuing struggle, the suspect, who at some point was tackled to the ground, was able to pull a gun from his fanny pack and fire, with Yarusso firing back.

In the immediate aftermath, Yarusso “was more concerned about his partner” than his own wound as he used a tourniquet to slow the bleeding from Abreu’s leg, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry said.

Caban, who with Adams visited the cops and their families at the hospital, said they’re “in good spirits.”

About 7:30 a.m., Yarusso helped wheel his partner out of the hospital in a wheelchair as fellow cops cheered.

“He’s doing fine,” Abreu’s father later told The News. “We’re glad that he’s alive.”

Castro Mata has no prior arrests in the city but is a suspect in several Queens robbery patterns, NYPD Chief of Detectives Jospeh Kenny said. One victim was a woman who was attacked, with her credit card stolen and later used in a smoke shop.

At the shelter where Castro Mata has been staying, another migrant said metal detectors would seemingly make it impossible to sneak a gun inside.

“But outside who knows where he could have kept it,” the migrant said. “We’re all immigrants. We came to work.”

Another migrant said Castro Mata had been kicked out of the shelter a month ago but would regularly come by to visit friends.

The robbery patterns are part of a larger trend, Kenny said, noting that through June 1, hundreds of crimes including shootings, robberies and phone snatches have been linked to more than 80 patterns around the city.

here were 20 such known patterns operating during the same time last year — and none during the same time in 2022, he noted.

The wounded officers are “very brave and courageous for what they did tonight, what they’ve been doing to keep New Yorkers safe,” NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said.

Police have recovered 16,341 guns since the start of the Adams administration, including 2,746 this year.

The shooting is the first of an NYPD cop since Officer Jonathan Diller was killed in March as he tried to pull a gun suspect out of a car in Far Rockaway, Queens.