An armed carjacker fleeing police Tuesday crashed into the wall of a North Merrick elementary school, where officers tackled him 10 feet from a door as he fumbled for a pistol in his waistband, Nassau police said.
"The cops knew they had to get this guy before he got into the school," said spokesman Deputy Insp. Kenneth Lack.
A Bureau of Special Operations officer on patrol spotted the stolen 2006 gray Infiniti in North Bellmore about 15 minutes after it was taken at gunpoint from its owner in Hicksville. Backup officers in four unmarked cars tried to box in the suspect, identified as Remick Menjivar, 18, of 102 Washburn Ave., Freeport, at Jerusalem and Merrick Avenues, police said.
Menjivar headed north and about a half-mile later with police in pursuit, turned into the parking lot of Harold Fayette Elementary School. He rammed an unmarked police car and careened into the wall of the school as children played in the athletic fields beyond the parking lot, police said.
Selena Vitiello, 9, said she was in class when "we heard a loud boom and then I heard the custodians yelling."
Four police officers were injured in the pursuit and the arrest, including one who was admitted to Nassau University Medical Center with a possible concussion, police said.
No school personnel or students were injured, said David Feller, superintendent of the North Merrick school district, but all three schools in the district were placed on lockdown for about 30 minutes during the incident.
At 11:54 a.m. two men parked a Toyota and walked across the street to where Chris Verde, 26, was working on his Infiniti in the garage of his home on Ohio Street in Hicksville, said police and the victim's mother, Geralyn Verde.
She said the men asked her son for directions to the Northern State Parkway. As he answered, they "put a gun in his face and took his keys and car," she said.
The man who drove the Toyota was identified by police as Edwin Flores, 20, of 163 Woodbury Rd., Hicksville, who police took into custody. Shameik Howard, 20, of 64 Mount Ave., Freeport, was also arrested in the investigation.
About 20 minutes after the carjacking, police broadcast a description of the Infiniti and at a stop light at Jerusalem and Bellmore avenues, a BSO officer spotted the car ahead of him, police said. To try to avoid a chase, officers in four unmarked vehicles attempted to box in the Infiniti at the corner of Jerusalem and Merrick avenues, police said.
When that failed, the officers turned on their sirens and lights, and began their pursuit. Police said Menjivar turned into what appeared to be a road but was the driveway for the school's parking lot. After making several U-turns to get away, Menjivar drove head on into an unmarked car, police said, and the force of the crash knocked the Infiniti into the wall of the building.
The suspected carjacker then bolted down a narrow courtyard on foot, passing a set of locked doors and found himself trapped at a dead end, Campagna said.
The officers saw Menjivar reach for something in his waistband, but before he could grab the weapon, they tackled him, kicking and punching as he resisted arrest, Campagna said. After he was handcuffed, a pat-down revealed a fully loaded gun, he said.
"My guys are confident he was attempting to use it on them," Campagna said. "He was desperate. Thank God he didn't get into the school. What he would have done if he had gotten into the school, I don't want to think about that."
Menjivar and Flores face several counts in the carjacking. They were to be arraigned Wednesday in First District Court, Hempstead.
Police said Howard is being charged with criminal possession of stolen property in connection with the March 16 theft of a vehicle in New York City.
Police said anyone with information could call Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS.
With Patricia Kitchen, Gary Dymski and Matthew Chayes
HOW IT HAPPENED
Police give this account:
4. A chase ensues, and about a quarter-mile away, the Infiniti crashes nearly head-on with an unmarked car and slams into a wall at the Harold Fayette Elementary School in North Merrick. The suspect bails out and is tackled by officers not far from the school's doors. Police say the suspect was armed with a semiautomatic handgun.
-- KERY MURAKAMI
Correction: A Freeport man was not among the suspects arrested in a Hicksville carjacking. Shameik Howard, 20, was arrested after he was seen getting into a stolen car with a suspect in the carjacking, police said. He was charged with third-degree criminal possession of stolen property.