A Brooklyn man who told investigators he wanted to show friends "how easy it would be to shoot a police officer" was arrested after he drove up to an NYPD patrol car in Harlem and mimicked pointing a handgun at the two officers inside, officials said.
Unique Johnson, 32, was awaiting arraignment Wednesday night on charges stemming from the encounter at about 9 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 125th Street and Seventh Avenue, police said.
Johnson was charged with menacing a police officer, harassment, disorderly conduct and aggravated unlicensed operator because he was driving with a suspended license, police said.
According to investigators, Johnson was driving a Chevy SUV with six other occupants when he pulled up to the rear of a police car from the 28th Precinct that had stopped at a traffic light.
The SUV caught the attention of one of the uniformed officers in the car, who noticed Johnson make a hand gesture as if he had a gun, police said.
As the traffic light turned green, the SUV drove away and the cops pursued it, pulling the vehicle over and searching Johnson and seven other occupants, but found no weapon, according to officials.
Police said Johnson told investigators he pulled out his cellphone, which was wrapped in a dark blue protective cover, and pointed it like a gun, "as if I was shooting a police officer at an angle."
One high-ranking police official said that given the charged atmosphere in the city, the situation risked becoming another flashpoint. In the aftermath of a grand jury declining to indict an officer in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner, as well as the apparently accidental shooting by officers in Brooklyn of Akai Gurley, there could have been more political furor if police took defensive action and shot the unarmed Johnson, the official said.
Cops have been on edge since officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot to death as they sat in a patrol car in Brooklyn on Dec. 20. Their killer, who took his own life a short time later, had posted anti-police statements on social media.
The officers' deaths led the NYPD to order highway patrols and traffic units to double up patrols, which NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said contributed to a slowdown in some low-level arrests and summonses.
Other officials said that police, particularly those who have never experienced the killing of a fellow officer, had taken it upon themselves to pull back and not engage people on the street out of fear that a minor offense might lead to a bloody confrontation or legal ramifications.