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NYPD cop from Garden City shot point-blank in the head after chase in Brooklyn

Luis Ortiz, the alleged shooter of NYPD officer

Luis Ortiz, the alleged shooter of NYPD officer Kevin Brennan, shouting to the crowd while being led out of the 90th. Prct. (Feb. 1, 2012) Credit: Errol Anderson

NYPD Officer Kevin Brennan was shot in the head virtually at point-blank range late Tuesday by a suspect who also may have tried to squeeze off a second shot at the downed cop, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

That suspect, Luis Ortiz, 21, of Brooklyn, was charged Wednesday with attempted murder of a police officer, assault on a police officer, criminal possession of a weapon, and menacing.

Shortly after 5 p.m., detectives walked Ortiz out of the 90th Precinct.

His aunt Celine Ortiz said, "We love you!"

Making kissing noises and shouting "I love you!" to his cheering family mingling with reporters behind barricades, Ortiz said, "You know what it is!" and "Yeah, take a picture of me!" to reporters and more than 50 people gathered on Union Avenue outside the station house.

The suspect kept shouting in Spanish as a detective struggled to force him into an unmarked police car.

Once Ortiz was inside the car, his sister banged on the trunk of the police cruiser, crying and cursing the police before another family member put her hand over the sister's mouth.

The family then got into a tussle with news photographers, pushing and punching them and their lenses.

Ortiz was expected to be arraigned Thursday at 9 a.m. in Brooklyn criminal court.

Brennan, 29, a six-year NYPD veteran, is married with an infant daughter and lives in Garden City Park. He is in stable condition after a bullet was removed Tuesday night from the base of his skull. Kelly described him as a "very lucky young man."

Earlier in the day, Kelly, recounting the events of the chase in East Williamsburg in which Brennan grappled with Ortiz, said a video showed Ortiz with his arm around the officer's head and a shot being fired.

Since Brennan and Ortiz were in an alcove, the actual shooting wasn't caught on camera, Kelly said. But the commissioner noted that after a shot went off, Brennan remained motionless.

The .38-caliber bullet lodged between the skin of Brennan's head on the right side and his skull, according to Kelly. An examination of the revolver found three expended rounds and three that were not fired. However, because one of the unfired rounds had a hammer strike, Kelly said it was possible Ortiz may have tried to fire a second time.

The commissioner said Ortiz is believed to have fired two shots during a "stare down" with another man. The noise attracted the attention of Brennan and other anti-crime officers near 370 Bushwick Ave., a housing project, according to officers.

Ortiz was arrested at 390 Bushwick Ave., in the fifth-floor apartment of his uncle. Authorities said he had gone there to hide from police.

Ortiz had been wanted for questioning in connection with a homicide on New Year's Day, police said.

He had 14 prior arrests before the current charges, police said. Police records showed that Ortiz had a list of arrests going back to 2005, when he was about 16, in a case that is sealed because of his juvenile status at the time. In December, Ortiz was charged with reckless endangerment for setting fire to trash bins at Bushwick Houses, said a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorneys Office.

Kelly said Brennan and two other Brooklyn North Anti-Crime police officers were responding to a call of shots fired near the rear of the Bushwick Houses about 9 p.m. Tuesday when they encountered three individuals running from a building on nearby Moore Street. With Brennan in the lead, they chased the suspects. Brennan followed Ortiz inside a building, where the encounter took place, with the other officers behind him but delayed because of problems with opening a door.

Police said Brennan's partners had trouble opening the door to the building after it closed behind him. They heard shots fired, authorities said, and when they came through, found him on a hallway floor.

He was taken to Bellevue Hospital Medical Center in Manhattan.

Wednesday, Brennan's father-in-law, Joseph Dempsey, said he had comforted his daughter Janet when they last spoke about 1 a.m., telling her that her husband had kept himself in good shape and would recover.

"He's got pains from his chest up, but they said . . . it's like getting hit in a car accident," said Dempsey, who lives in a Chicago suburb. "You get hit the back of your head, it's like someone hit you with a sledgehammer. Your whole body goes forward and pulls your chest muscles, your neck muscles.

"His only problem was that he couldn't use his peripheral vision, but the doctor thought it'd come back. I said for a gunshot wound, if that's his worst problem . . . I said it could have been like the case of the congresswoman, [Gabrielle] Giffords, then he'd be a completely different person," Dempsey said.

Brennan had recently passed the sergeant's test and was going to be trained as a supervisor, Dempsey said.

"Everybody's sick to their stomachs about it [the shooting] because he's such a nice guy, easygoing, friendly, upbeat," he said.

Janet Brennan's brother-in-law Robert Masi said he went to the hospital Tuesday night to see Brennan: "He asked for Maeve [his daughter] right away. It's what you'd expect from a young father."

Masi on Wednesday said Janet, a social worker, and Maeve were resting. "I think he remembers some of what happened and I think he's been relating that to the people there," Masi said. "I know he's been talking a bit, as much as he can, and he's doing really good."

Masi's brother, Anthony, was at the policeman's home Wednesday to care for the family's dog, and he called Brennan the "greatest guy in the world," adding, "It's a dangerous job, and anybody should admire that police do that job every day."

He also said the family is "rallying around each other."

The Brennans' landlady, Catarina Didrickson, said the family moved to the neighborhood, which has a New Hyde Park mailing address, about two years ago.

"When I heard this, I asked myself, 'Why in the world does someone become a cop?' " she said.

Didrickson called Brennan wonderful, helpful and kind, his wife lovely and their baby girl gorgeous.

"He's the first one when the snow falls to clean the driveway. . . . He's a great addition to the neighborhood."

Neighbors near his home said they were pulling for Brennan, especially John Skinner, 46, a retired NYPD officer.

"I didn't even know that he was on the job," said Skinner, who said several officers, active and retired, live in the area. Skinner learned his neighbor was a police officer from news reports, he said. He described Brennan as "very nice, very quiet."

Skinner also said as a former police officer he could relate to the family's situation.

"Every single day when you go out, you don't know if you're coming home," he said. ". . . And we deal with that. The hardest thing is not for us, it's for our families.

The defendant's aunt, Celine Ortiz, 33, of Bushwick, said her nephew wasn't the one who fired at the officer.

"He was a good kid. He was a real good kid. They must have confused him because I can't believe it myself," she said.

She said she last saw her unemployed nephew a few days ago when he came over to eat with her and her three kids. They watched a Denzel Washington movie.

"We know him as a family kid," she said. "We don't know him as a street kid or whatever. He was just a normal kid."

He was "at the wrong place at the wrong time."

With Ellen Yan, Chau Lam, Igor Kossov, Gary Dymski and John Valenti

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