Suffolk County police officials Friday said officers had little choice but to fatally shoot a man who drew a loaded semiautomatic handgun after a late-night chase in Brentwood.
At least one of two Third Precinct officers fired on the man Thursday night behind a business on Suffolk Avenue after the suspect jumped from his vehicle, which he left in gear and moving, and ran behind a store, officials said.
Police on Friday identified the man as Emanuel Johnson III, 21, of Brentwood. Police said he was a member of the Bloods gang who had 14 prior arrests.
Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene, police said, and the loaded handgun was recovered. Neither officer was injured.
When asked Friday during a news conference at the county court complex in Riverhead whether the suspect was trying to shoot at officers, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, "It appears that way."
The incident is under investigation by detectives as well as the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which is standard procedure for officer-involved shootings, Hart said.
"Our officers have been trained to handle various situations," Hart said. "But in this case, a suspect pointed a gun at our officers and their lives were in danger.”
Both officers are still on duty, Hart said, adding a ballistics investigation would determine whether one or both officers fired at the suspect.
Police officials did not name the officers.
Police on Friday closed a section of Suffolk Avenue to investigate the shooting scene. Officers were seen focusing on a hair, nails and facial salon at 908 Suffolk Ave.
Officials said the two officers were on patrol in a marked car at 10:20 p.m. Thursday when they tried to stop an unregistered 2001 Chevrolet Impala with inactive Pennsylvania plates driving in the wrong direction on a one-way access road leading into the Brentwood LIRR station
The driver made a U-turn on the access road into the train station’s parking lot, Hart said. When officers followed the suspect into the parking lot, he exited the moving car, which ultimately crashed into a pylon. The man, carrying a backpack, then fled along a wooded area parallel to the parking lot and ran to the back of the salon.
The officers gave chase, officials said. Behind the business, the officers fired electrified darts, often called Tasers, in an attempt to subdue the suspect.
The darts hit the man but were ineffective due to the thick clothing he was wearing, Suffolk Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante said at the news conference.
“The probes were in him, but a lot of times, with thick clothing, it doesn’t have an effect,” Gigante said.
The man then drew the handgun, police fired their weapons and the man was hit, police said.
Hart said the weapon was a loaded .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun, which police recovered at the scene.
Evidence suggested the suspect was holding up the gun when police shot the suspect, and it “appeared” there was one expended shell casing in the suspect’s weapon, Hart said. When a firearm is discharged, the casing can sometimes get jammed into the barrel of the gun, making the weapon become inoperable, Hart said.
Damage to the suspect’s gun was also found. The investigation was still determining whether the suspect had fired.
“It is certainly a shooting that ended tragically, and we will offer support to our officers," Hart said. "No officers want a call to end this way. This case is an unfortunate reminder of the dangers of working in law enforcement. Officers face a tremendous amount of uncertainty when they initiate a traffic stop."