Cheers and sustained applause greeted NYPD detective Mario Muniz Wednesday as he emerged from Bellevue Hospital Center -- two days after he was wounded in a deadly Greenwich Village shootout with a fugitive sex crime suspect.
Muniz, 45, waved to dozens of police officers as he left the hospital in a wheelchair, accompanied by his NYPD partner and a U.S. marshal also wounded in the shootout that killed fugitive Charles Mozdir, 32.
"I feel great," Muniz said as he got into a waiting SUV, thanking the police, the hospital and his family. His partner, Detective Joseph Travato, pushed the wheelchair as U.S. Marshal Ryan Westfield stood nearby. Westfield was less seriously wounded in Monday's confrontation, as was fellow marshal Patrick Lin. Both Westfield and Lin, part of a federal fugitive task force, were released from Bellevue earlier in the week.
The bullet that struck Muniz, who has been with the NYPD for more than 20 years, narrowly missed his small intestine, said Dr. Spiros Frangos, Bellevue's chief of trauma, emergency surgery and critical care. Muniz's protective vest prevented more serious injuries from another round, said Frangos.
"He was very lucky," Frangos noted.
Mozdir, on the run from a California child molestation charge, exchanged gunfire with task force members attempting to serve him with an arrest warrant at his workplace, the Smoke Culture shop on West Fourth Street, authorities said.
Wednesday, Mozdir's 90-year-old grandfather, also named Charles Mozdir, lashed out at law enforcement over the way his grandson died.
"A bunch of bums killed a young man who didn't know what the [expletive] a gun is, he never went hunting," the elder Mozdir said in an interview.
"I am truthful, not angry," added Mozdir, who lives in California.
As a fugitive, Mozdir had been on the run since June 2012 and according to law enforcement sources had traveled to Georgia and Key West, Florida, where he was believed to have had a girlfriend, before arriving in New York City, accompanied by a black Labrador named Lucky. The dog's presence helped confirm the whereabouts of Mozdir after he was featured on John Walsh's CNN program "The Hunt."
Wednesday, in response to public inquiries about the dog, police showed an apparently healthy Lucky to reporters at the Sixth Precinct headquarters of the bomb squad, where the canine is being cared for until the rightful owner can retrieve him, said officials.
With Allison Fox