Believing his life might be in danger when the occupants of a sedan refused to follow his orders, a Suffolk police officer Monday shot and wounded a 31-year-old man during a traffic stop in Huntington minutes after a nearby fast-food restaurant was robbed, a top police official said.
Police Monday said the unidentified shooting victim and two other occupants of the vehicle were not involved in the robbery at a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express restaurant on New York Avenue in Huntington Station.
The shooting is being investigated by the Suffolk homicide squad, Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone said. The investigation should be concluded "as soon as possible," he said.
"Right now, it appears the involved officer was following the department procedures," Varrone said. "This is a very unfortunate incident."
The shooting victim was listed in serious condition Monday at Huntington Hospital, Varrone said. The man is expected to survive, he said.
The officer, who was not identified by police, pulled over the sedan on eastbound Jericho Turnpike at 4:10 a.m. Monday, about 15 minutes after the robbery and about three miles away. Witnesses said three men wearing masks and wielding guns stole cash from a manager and fled, police said.
The officer, a 14-year veteran, "was under the belief that they may very well be the three subjects involved with this robbery, and they refused to comply with his direction," Varrone said.
Shouting in both English and Spanish, "Show your hands, show your hands!" the officer's suspicions were heightened when the driver jumped out of the car, Varrone said.
When a passenger in the backseat "made a sudden downward thrust with his hands," the officer fired twice through the driver's side backseat window, striking the passenger once in the abdomen, Varrone said.
Additional police arrived at the scene soon after, he said.
The driver and another of the vehicle's occupants were questioned at the 2nd Precinct and released, Varrone said. None of the three men faces charges, he said. The men were returning home after drinking at a bar before the shooting, Varrone said.
The officer was not involved in any previous shootings and has a clean record, Varrone said. He was treated for trauma at Huntington Hospital and released, he said.
With Gary Dymski and John Valenti