An armed suspect was shot dead Thursday morning in a confrontation with a retired NYPD lieutenant and police officers during a harrowing robbery of painkillers at an East Harlem pharmacy after customers were held at gunpoint.
The dead man, identified as Rudolph Wyatt, 23, of Manhattan, attempted to shoot at officers who had answered a silent alarm sent from the pharmacy shortly after 11 a.m.
Wyatt was shot after he ran out of the Rx Center at 2325 First Ave. with his gun pointed at three police officers who had responded. A video released Thursday night by the NYPD showed customers forced to crouch behind a counter and Wyatt bolting from the store with his .32-caliber revolver, which investigators said apparently misfired three times during the confrontation. A second suspect, seen on the video coming out of the store with his hands up, was initially corralled by police, but escaped as officers took cover when Wyatt tried to shoot at them, Browne said.
Wyatt was shot twice -- once in the head and shoulder -- after he ran across First Avenue to a BP service station. It was there, Browne said, that a retired NYPD lieutenant who was gassing up his car saw Wyatt flee and took cover. According to Browne, the retired officer, described as a 48-year-old former member of a gang unit, took cover by a car and fired his own handgun at Wyatt at about the same time one of the responding officers fired.
It was unclear whose rounds struck Wyatt. Browne said the matter will be investigated by the Manhattan district attorney's office. The retired officer was under no obligation to fire, police said.
"But there is a tradition of retired members of the service taking action if lives are in danger," Browne said. State law generally allows a civilian to use deadly force against someone about to use deadly force against others or to make an arrest of someone who has committed robbery.
The retired officer and two of the on-duty officers were treated for trauma and released, officials said.
Police said Wyatt was wanted in two other shootings: a nonfatal incident last year in Georgia and a nonfatal May 2010 shooting in the Woodrow Wilson Houses in Manhattan.
The pharmacy robbery comes at a time when a spate of similar robberies and attempts have put businesses and politicians on edge about the way thieves are targeting drugstores painkillers.
Last June, David Laffer killed four people during the robbery of a Medford pharmacy and on Dec. 31 a robbery of a Seaford pharmacy took the life of federal agent John Capano.
"Our community has been the victim of several pharmacy robberies in recent weeks," said City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan).
Police said that Wyatt and his still unidentified accomplice were suspects in a pattern of three other pharmacy robberies in recent weeks in the upper Manhattan area.