Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cops Lauded for Arrest of Two Home Invaders by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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Police officers Shawn Phillips and Steven Betts were honored last week with the 106th Precinct’s Cop of the Month award for March for chasing down and arresting two home invasion suspects also charged with shooting at their squad car.

The action began at 8 a.m. on Feb. 2 when police received a 911 call of a home invasion near 122nd Street and 150th Avenue in South Ozone Park. The victims were leaving their house to take their children to school when two gun-toting thugs pushed them back into their residence, tied them up and proceeded to rummage through their possessions, looking for valuables, according to Deputy Inspector Joseph Courtesis, the precinct commander. The suspects took a 42-inch television and made their getaway in a white car they allegedly had stolen earlier.

Officers responded to the scene and immediately broadcast a description of the suspects and their car. While Phillips and Betts canvassed the area, a second robbery was broadcast over the police radio. The description of the suspects in that incident appeared to be the same as in the first robbery. This time a female on her way to work was robbed at gunpoint at a bus stop. Courtesis said the victim not only provided a description of the alleged perpetrators, but also told officers the type of vehicle and its license plate number. Phillips and Betts spotted the car at 130th Street and Foch Boulevard.

When the officers attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspects took off instead. While Betts drove, Phillips broadcast the progress and location of the vehicle pursuit. Courtesis said the suspects drove erratically to evade capture. The pursuit lasted for three minutes, passed through three precincts and continued for five miles. At one point in the chase the passenger in the vehicle, whom the Queens District Attorney later identified as Darius Lowery, 22, of Ozone Park, allegedly began to wave a firearm out the window in an attempt to intimidate the officers into backing off, Courtesis said.

Lowery then allegedly leaned out the window and opened fire. Next, the suspects jumped out of the car and fled on foot, leaving the vehicle in gear. It crashed into multiple vehicles parked on the street.

While being chased on foot by Phillips and Betts, Lowery and the other suspect, Urban Fermin, 30, also of Ozone Park, allegedly spotted a resident outside his house and attempted to push him back into his residence. The victim, however, had already locked the door and put the keys in his pocket. The suspects then shot at the two officers, who were right behind them. Phillips and Betts returned fire and the suspects fled to hide in a nearby backyard.

Police quickly set up a perimeter. One of the suspects was apprehended in a backyard and the firearm was recovered. Police recovered a 42-inch TV from the vehicle and a handbag on the street near their car. After further investigation by the precinct’s detective squad, the second alleged perpetrator was apprehended. Courtesis said that both suspects are on parole.

In presenting the Cop of the Month Award to Phillips and Betts, Courtesis said, “These officers exemplify bravery at its highest standard.”

Prior to the Feb. 2 incident, the precinct had experienced a rash of gunpoint robberies that were similar in nature, according to Courtesis.

Since the arrest of the two suspects there is no longer such a robbery problem in the 106th Precinct, he said.