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Mayor on Deadly NYC Shootout: `Too Many Guns'

Friday, 11 Dec 2009 09:36 AM

 

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NEW YORK -- New York City's mayor says a deadly police shootout in Times Square is evidence that there are "too many guns on the streets."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke Friday, a day after street peddler Raymond Martinez was killed by a plainclothes police sergeant. They had traded gunfire just outside the landmark Marriott Marquis hotel.

Investigators say Martinez used a gun that was reported stolen in Richmond, Va. Police say they also found business cards linked to Virginia gun dealers in his pockets.

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Bloomberg said gun violence is "one of the great public health threats," especially for police.

Martinez was running a common scam on the throngs of holiday tourists in Times Square, pushing shoppers to buy his CDs, police said. But Martinez was no ordinary peddler, they said: He was carrying a loaded pistol and had a handful of business cards from gun dealers in his pockets.

The 25-year-old was shot to death by a plainclothes police sergeant Thursday after trading gunfire in the taxi area of the landmark Marriott Marquis hotel.

Sgt. Christopher Newsom operates a task force that monitors aggressive panhandling and was patrolling with an anti-crime unit when he recognized Martinez and his brother from past run-ins. He asked the two for their tax stamps, which allow peddlers to sell on the streets. But Martinez took off running, through to the hotel's passenger drop-off area.

Newsom pursued, and Martinez turned and fired with a machine pistol that held 30 rounds, getting off two shots before it jammed, police said. The officer fired four times, striking Martinez in the chest and arms and killing him, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

"We're lucky the weapon jammed," Kelly said.

Martinez's brother Oliver returned to the family's Bronx home Thursday evening after hours in police custody. Another brother, Anthony, arrived at the home later Thursday, crying out that he hates police: "They shot my brother!" he said, hugging Oliver.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Raymond Martinez was selling illegal weapons. They say the gun he used in the shooting was reported stolen in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 28.

Police say they also found four business cards linked to Virginia gun dealers near Richmond, in Hampton Roads and in Ivor. All the gun shops declined to comment.

One of the cards had a handwritten message on the back: "I just finished watching 'The Last Dragon.' I feel sorry for a cop if he think I'm getting into his paddy wagon," according to police. It's unclear who wrote the message, apparently referencing the 1985 martial arts movie.

Police say it's not uncommon that some hawkers are also arrested on more serious charges. Police Capt. Edward Winski, of the Midtown precinct where the shooting occurred, said there have been more than 400 arrests involving illegal and licensed peddlers this year and illegal activity has been increasing.

Citywide, there are 853 licensed street vendors, but veterans are qualified to have licenses beyond the cap, so the actual number is more than 2,500. Vendors of their own material — music, art or anything else that is protected speech — are not required to have licenses so there is no official tally. They are required to have tax stamps, which aren't tracked by the city.

Police said the Martinez brothers fell into the latter category but had been cited previously for not having their stamps. They were also suspected of running a scam in which they'd ask the name of someone, write it on a CD and then demand payment of $10. But their cousin Nailean Arzu said the slain man had been lawfully selling CDs for years.

"Everybody loved him," she said. "It's a great loss to the family."

Police spokesman Paul Browne said officers pay special attention to scams and panhandling during the holidays. Specialized units are set up in areas, including Times Square and Canal Street, where stolen goods, knockoffs and scams are prevalent.

"We focus on them this time of the year, because they're preying on tourists during the Christmas holidays," Browne said.

Others say the peddlers get a bad rap.

"I think they get treated tougher than they actually are," said Zach McCabe, a comedian who has been passing out fliers for his shows for nearly a year on the strip of Broadway where the CD peddlers often stop tourists.

He said he didn't think the vendors harass people.

The hotel where the shooting took place is located in the Broadway theater district in the heart of Times Square. The Marquis Theatre, where "White Christmas" is playing, is in the hotel. Bullets from the gunfight shattered the window of the Broadway Baby gift shop and a side window of the box office on the street.

The police commissioner said the shooting preliminarily appeared to be within department guidelines, which allow for deadly force when an officer's life is threatened.

Hours after the shooting, the area had returned to the normal holiday bustle, even as police officers surrounded the hotel.

Donna Anderson, of Murray, Utah, was staying at the Marquis. She was intrigued by what happened _ not scared.

"I wanted to get a picture of the crime scene," she said.

___

Associated Press writers Sara Kugler, Tom Hays, Cristian Salazar and Chad Roedemeier contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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