The man suspected of shooting a New York police officer in the face Saturday evening had a violent history, including doing almost seven years in New York State prisons for 2nd degree attempted murder.
Demetrius Blackwell, 35, allegedly shot Officer Brian Moore, 25, at about 6:15 p.m. after Moore and his sergeant, Eric Jensen, attempted to stop him at the corner of 212th St. and 104th Road in Queens Village after seeing him adjust something in his waistband they thought might be a gun, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said, according to the New York Post. Moore and Jensen approached Blackwell in their car, when Blackwell—on foot—allegedly pulled out a pistol and fired two or three shots into the car, striking Moore at least once in the face.
“He immediately opened fire on them before they had time to get out of the vehicle,” Bratton said at a press conference.
Blackwell then fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt that culminated in his capture 90 minutes later.
It was the fifth shooting of a NYC cop since December.
The area was sealed off, the New York Daily News reported, with neighbors reporting the neighborhood was “swarming” with police officers by 6:30 p.m.
One neighbor, who spoke to The Daily Beast but requested anonymity because he feared reprisals, said he was helping another neighbor work on his car when he heard gunfire cackle.
“I was standing right here and talking when we heard two shots,” the young man said. “It was quick: boom-boom.”
Unfazed the young man walked back to working on his ride but after hearing what happened he said he felt for the fallen officer.
"It's unfortunate with the cop," he said. "Nobody wants a cop to get shot like that."
The Post reported that, according to a law enforcement sources, Blackwell had been arrested 10 times, including five counts of robbery, grand larceny and criminal possession of a weapon. He was released from Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate Dannemora in June 2008 after serving his time for the attempted murder conviction.
But a longtime friend and neighbor of Blackwell’s who goes by the name "Chip" was suspicious of the cops’ version of events.
Clearly shaken by news of his friend’s confrontation with plainclothes cops, Chip said he hoped the incident wasn't true. “That's my brother right there and like he was always true about helping young kids here stay positive.”
He said he last saw Blackwell when they were having drinks together a week ago, and said his friend has family ties to the police.
“He has family that are law enforcement,” Chip said.
He also doubts that Blackwell fired the weapon.
“Did they see him actually fire a weapon?” he asked. “He doesn't carry a gun.”
Instead, said Chip, Blackwell is a hardworking tire repairman.
“They’re already painting him as some punk, and I can tell you he's all positive.”
Among his friends in the neighborhood, Blackwell was a well-known and well-liked guy. From their descriptions, a portrait of Blackwell as a conflicted character emerges.
Friend James West, 33, said Blackwell did "ghostwriting" for rappers and that he was a "local hip-hop legend." West added that he was a producer and had worked with Blackwell on his music.
He has a young daughter under the age of 3, West said. "That's his life; he does everything for that girl. If it wasn't for her then he might not be who he is."
But, West said, the hip hop lyricist has a serious medical history.
"He suffers from epilepsy and has severe anxiety attacks," West said. "He has a medical case for this and hopefully he's all right."
He worried that cops approaching Blackwell "in the wrong way" would "scare a man who could be just pulling up his pants."
Marlow Vaughn, 43, is a truckdriver says he has known Blackwell "since he was a baby."
Blackwell is cousin to the former New York Giant defensive back Korey Blackwell, he said, adding that the athlete had once given Demetrius a music studio "so he would take his music seriously."
Vaughn said Blackwell suffered from serious seizures all his life and even went under the knife last year.
"He had to get brain surgery because last year he was having too many seizures," Vaughn said, adding that the accused somtimes suffered seizures "three times a day."
But even after Blackwell's health improved somewhat he seizures—some of them lasted several minutes at a time—persisted. "They were less, but when he came out of them he didn't know nothing."
What role his reported epilepsy played in the accusations against him is unknown, and there’s no way of knowing Blackwell’s motives at this point. But it’s possible there was no deliberate plan on his part to hunt and kill police officers and that he panicked when confronted by the police.
The shooting comes in the midst of national anguish and angst over the killing of black men by police officers. Baltimore this week has been wracked by protests and riots after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody from a severed spinal cord after he was transported in a police van.
The fury over Gray’s death is itself rooted in African-American anger and frustration over the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Harris and Gray, to name just a few.
But today’s shooting is also a haunting reminder of a similar shooting in New York in December, when NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead by Ismaaiyl Brinsley as they sat in their car. Brinsley had posted earlier that day on social media that he wanted to kill cops, and ended up killing himself as he fled the scene of the shooting.
Incredibly Blackwell's friend Vaughn says he knows Moore.
"That's my guy," he told The Daily Beast. "I know Officer Moore—he's one of the cool cops."
Vaughn says that the cop was easy going and managed to keep a rapport with many in this swath of Queens Village, even when things got shaky
"Hey, Officer Moore can I get a pass?" he said, saying the cop showed respect and didn't overreact. He said that Moore had been invited to come to the neighborhood block parties this summer. "I told him recently, 'You look out for us, Officer Moore. You should come to our barbecues.'"
Vaughn said Moore said he would and the invitation, despite the shooting, remains.
"He can still come but we haven't got to the summer yet."
Moore was in a medically-induced coma after being rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens to relieve pressure on his brain, the Post reported. His recovery is uncertain.
UPDATE May 3, 5:45 p.m.: Officer Moore's condition has detoriated, and he is fighting for his life.