A Queens man pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple robbery, assault and weapon charges linked to the Roosevelt Field mall shooting that sent shoppers scrambling for safety days before Christmas.
But an attorney for Oliver Lee, 21, of Little Neck, also told a judge during the Mineola court arraignment that Lee was addicted to drugs, and that had spurred the man to act in a way that was “out of character.”
Defense lawyer Steven Raiser of Mineola asked for Lee’s bond to be lowered to $450,000 at most so his client could get out of jail and seek addiction treatment.
But state Supreme Court Justice William Donnino kept Lee’s bond at $750,000 on Friday after hearing a prosecutor recount the allegations.
Nassau Assistant District Attorney Veronica Guariglia contended that on Dec. 22, Lee brandished a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the Garden City shopping center’s Tourneau store after asking to see a Rolex watch worth more than $18,000. She said a store security guard then confronted Lee and the two got into a struggle.
The prosecutor said that the guard, a retired NYPD sergeant, was able to “quickly grab the defendant’s hand, which still contained that firearm and . . . did not let go.”
Guariglia said the struggle then moved out of the jewelry store and into the general mall area, at which point the gun discharged and a bullet hit a 67-year-old mall worker in the back of the neck.
Police have said two unarmed mall security guards then helped restrain Lee, and an off-duty NYPD inspector also helped handcuff him. The prosecutor said Friday it took three people to wrestle Lee to the ground.
She also said the shooting victim, who was among three people who were hurt, still has a “foreign projectile in his body.”
“Thankfully he was OK but the bullet is still lodged in his neck,” Guariglia said.
Raiser countered that Lee never meant to shoot anyone.
“The weapon was pulled out and brandished. It was not pointed, and my client never had the intent to fire the weapon. . . . I’m not minimizing the culpability my client has,” he told the judge. “What I’m saying is that, it was oversold as an intentional shooting, and it was not that.”
The indictment included new felony charges brought since Lee’s arrest, along with a misdemeanor drug charge connected to 10 oxycodone pills authorities alleged Lee had in one of his shoes when he was arrested.
Raiser said after court that his client is “very remorseful” about what happened to the victim, adding: “It was never his intent to hurt anybody.”
He said Lee’s addiction problem grew out of pain from a back injury he suffered while exercising.