NEW YORK (AP) – A New York Police Department officer shot and killed a man who had apparently armed himself with a loaded revolver to defend his brother during a holdup of a home where drugs were later recovered, police said Friday.
Duane Browne, 26, was shot once in the chest on Thursday just outside the rear basement door of the two-story, brick house on a quiet block in Brooklyn shared by the two men and their mother. He died after retreating and collapsing inside.
The patrolman, responding to a report of an armed robbery in progress, opened fire after the victim ignored orders to freeze and drop an unregistered .38-caliber revolver he was holding, police said.
The shooting “happened very, very quickly,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at news conference.
Police investigators are barred from interviewing officers involved in shootings pending a district attorney review. Absent their account, it remained unclear if Browne had pointed his weapon at them.
“We don’t have an independent witness who states that,” Kelly said.
Investigators found 11 bags of marijuana and a scale in a closet of the basement, police said. Two armed men who tried to rob the surviving brother were still being sought.
Browne’s grief-stricken mother, who wasn’t home at the time of the shooting, wept outside on Friday as police investigators combed the scene. She said the victim has a 7-year-old son.
“Tell them to turn the hands of time back,” Alice Browne told reporters. “Take my house, take my car, take everything. Just give me my son, I’ll be happy.”
The chaotic scene unfolded at about 10:30 p.m. when the surviving brother and his girlfriend arrived at the home in a sport utility vehicle. After they parked in back, two armed men wearing hooded sweatshirts, scarves over their faces and latex gloves accosted the 31-year-old victim and demanded, “Where’s the money?” police said.
The girlfriend made a series of frantic 911 calls from the SUV as the bandits forced Browne’s brother inside the home and held a gun to his head, police said. Another woman _ the girlfriend of the slain man _ said the two were inside on the second floor watching a thriller called “The Resident” when they heard the commotion.
Browne went downstairs, then returned and said, “They’re (messing) with my brother,” she told police.
Around the same time, a police car carrying two uniformed officers rolled up. Alarmed, the bandits forced the brother to let them out a front entrance, police said.
The brother exited the back entrance with his hands up, telling the officers, “I’m OK.” However, police said he did not reveal that the robbers had slipped away or that his brother was inside.
Browne, after apparently retrieving his loaded handgun from upstairs, suddenly appeared in the same back exit wearing a blue T-shirt, pajama bottoms and work boots, police said.
The two officers responded by drawing their guns and shouting orders. Police said witnesses heard them yell, “Police, don’t move!” and “Freeze! Freeze! Freeze!”
When Browne didn’t respond, a 30-year-old officer fired one round at him from about 20 feet away, police said.
Browne’s girlfriend told reporters she head the shot before finding him crawling back into the home covered in blood.
“He was telling me, `Just call the cops,'” she said. “Then the police came. They drew their guns on me and him as he was down and they stood over him asking him who he was.”
The surviving brother was still being questioned on Friday. Police said in addition to the marijuana in the home, they found $680 in his pocket. They also said he had a history of drug arrests.
Asked if the shooting was justified, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne _ no relation to the victim _ would say only that the officers were confronted with “two individuals exiting the home _ one who complied with police and the other who was armed and did not comply with orders to stop and drop the gun.”
The shooting occurred in the same neighborhood where an NYPD officer was killed in December while responding to another armed invasion of suspected drug dealer’s home. The shooting suspect and three others were arrested and charged with murder.
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