NEW YORK — A plainclothes New York City police officer was shot in the head and critically injured while in an unmarked police car Saturday as he and his partner attempted to stop and question a man they suspected of carrying a gun, officials said.
Officer Brian Moore and his partner, Erik Jansen, noticed Demitrius Blackwell "walking and adjusting an object in his waistband" when they pulled up on him in their car, exchanging words with him before he turned and suddenly fired at least two rounds into the car, police Commissioner William Bratton said.
"The man immediately removed the firearm from his waistband and turned in the direction of the officers and deliberately fired several times at the vehicle, striking Officer Moore in the head," Bratton said at a press conference at a Queens hospital. The 25-year-old Moore was undergoing surgery but listed in stable condition.
Blackwell was arrested inside a house about 90 minutes after the early-evening shooting on a block he resided on near the crime scene, Bratton said. A weapon hasn't been recovered.
The police-involved shooting, the fifth in as many months in New York, initially evoked fears of the December ambush of two uniformed police officers killed while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn. In that case, the shooter had posted on Instagram that he was planning to assassinate two "pigs."
But Bratton said Saturday that a preliminary investigation indicates that Blackwell, 35, made no such postings but has an extensive criminal history, including an arrest for possession of a weapon.
"It was quite clear that they were police officers," he said.
The two officers, both with about four years on the job, were assigned to an anti-crime unit.
Before Blackwell was found, police flooded the normally quiet residential neighborhood where the shooting occurred. Teams of officers could be seen walking on roofs, searching house-by-house and peering into backyards and under cars with flashlights.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who attended the news conference, said Moore comes from a police family — his father and uncle both retired as sergeants with the department — and de Blasio praised his service.
"It is a painful day for all of us," the mayor said. "It is a reminder of the dangers that all of our officers face every single day."
After Moore, who was driving, was shot his partner, Jansen, radioed for help and a nearby patrol car arrived and rushed Moore to the hospital — "in all likelihood potentially saving the officer's life," Bratton said.
Witnesses described the shooter and directed officers in the direction he fled, Bratton said.
Neighbors near the scene of the shooting were surprised by the violence and described the area as quiet and safe.
"You walk down the street, no trouble," said Sandreaus Adam, 52. "This is not a neighborhood where you're just going to hear shots."
Associated Press write Tom Hays contributed to this report.