Nassau police at the scene in Carle Place on Tuesday...

Nassau police at the scene in Carle Place on Tuesday where a Hicksville man accused of harassing children allegedly drove intentionally into a police officer before later being apprehended in Queens. Credit: Jim Staubitser

A Hicksville man wanted for "stalking children" was captured in Queens by a Nassau police SWAT team after he intentionally drove into a pursuing officer in Carle Place who then opened fire, police said Wednesday.

No one was hit by the gunfire after a 2023 Chevy Malibu driven by Peter Centeno, 42, struck the officer on the hand Tuesday afternoon outside a Carle Place Holiday Inn, after initially ramming the unmarked patrol vehicle of the officer and his partner, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

While one officer was pinned inside the damaged patrol vehicle, his partner got out and Centeno allegedly accelerated and hit him, Ryder said.

“The officer at that time felt his life was in danger and fired two rounds into the vehicle,” Ryder said at a news conference.

Officers next attempted to pull Centeno from the Malibu but he again stepped on the accelerator, according to a police department news release, hitting "a patrol car and rendering it inoperable."

Centeno then drove west on Old Country Road and shortly after, "was located and apprehended on Douglaston Parkway, Queens," the release said, "without further incident."

His arrest followed repeated efforts by school officials and law enforcement to keep him away from children.

"Centeno has five prior arrests for various crimes, including violent felonies," the release said.

He also has a history of trespassing near Hicksville schools, prompting a series of community complaints, police said.

Centeno has been banned from school grounds since April 2022 following an incident at a district athletic event, according to Hicksville Superintendent Theodore Fulton.

The warrant for Centeno's arrest that led to his eventual apprehension was issued May 10 related to a year-old stalking case. He had been accused of harassing children at a Hicksville playground, officials said.  After his May 18, 2023, arrest, according to court records, Centeno pleaded not guilty, was released without bail and issued an order of protection.

“He's been stalking children and has been on the premises of one of our school grounds in Nassau County," the police commissioner said Wednesday. "So, the school notified us several times. He was putting fear into that community, into the school and into those kids.”

At his Wednesday arraignment, Centeno pleaded not guilty to first-degree attempted assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree criminal mischief  and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, as well as vehicle and traffic violations.

His attorney assigned at arraignment Wednesday said he did not have any details about either the latest charges or the year-old stalking case.

In a statement, Fulton said in the time since the district banned Centeno, it "has worked closely with law enforcement to preserve the safety of district staff, students and the community within the confines of the criminal justice system.” 

Centeno and the injured officer were treated at hospitals and released, police said.

Centeno is due back in court Friday.

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