A case of mistaken identity led to a fatal clash between a heavily-armed felon and local cops outside of Brooklyn’s biggest boneyard.
Officials said that Prospect Avenue resident Michael Romero, 32, was mistaken for a thug wanted for a series of robberies in Greenwood Heights and Sunset Park when three plainclothes officers from Mill Basin’s 63rd Precinct rolled up to him on April 1.
It was not initially clear if Romero knew that the two men and woman approaching him were New York’s Finest. But on Monday, an NYPD spokesperson said that at least one of the three officers “had his shield displayed” as they motioned Romero over to their car at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, seconds before the mad moments that cost Romero his life.
“He [Romero] knew exactly who he was attacking,” the NYPD spokesman said.
The three officers, who were on loan to the 72nd Precinct station house, were rolling past the cemetery at 2:15 pm when they saw Romero, pulled over and motioned him to the car, demanding to see his ID.
What happened next was brutal, bloody, and over in a matter of seconds.
“You want my ID? Here’s my ID!” an outraged Romero bellowed as he charged the officers, pulled out a .357-caliber revolver and aimed it at Officer Sean Kelleher’s face as he sat behind the wheel of the car.
After hearing a click, Kelleher grabbed the gun, using his fingers to keep the cocked hammer from discharging. “I’m a cop!” he screamed, according to a police spokesman.
With the two embroiled in a heated death match, Officer Tara Hayes pulled her pistol and fired. The bullet punched through Romero’s shoulder, hitting his chest.
Romero died of his injuries at Lutheran Medical Center on Second Avenue between 55th and 56th streets. None of the officers were injured, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who praised Hayes for saving her partner.
“With no time to spare, she acted fast, courageously and professionally, while her partner fought hard to defend himself and his fellow officers,” he said.
All three officers, members of the 63rd Precinct’s elite anti-crime team, had patrolled the streets of Marine Park and Mill Basin for over five years, said their fellow officers as they greeted them back to the Brooklyn Avenue station house this week.
Police found two IDs and a second gun — a .44-caliber pistol — as well as some marijuana on Romero after he was shot. Cops described him as a career felon who has been arrested more than 30 times in 15 years, a fact that led some officers to believe that he knew exactly who he was confronting when he drew his piece.
“A guy with this kind of rap sheet must have known that the three people coming towards him in a Crown Victoria were cops,” said one police source.
The cops, however, were apparently mistaken for targeting Romero, who has not actually been connected to the robbery spree plaguing the area.