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The NYPD is defending the actions of a police officer who shot and killed a homeless man during a tense confrontation outside a Coney Island church.
Officials said this week that Police Officer Dawn Ortiz was following department guidelines when she opened fire on 45-year-old Gilberto Blanco, a depressed and possibly intoxicated homeless man she found trying to break into an automobile parked in a rain-swept lot next to the Coney Island Gospel Assembly, 2828 Neptune Avenue near West 29th Street.
Officer Ortiz, a nine-year veteran of the NYPD’s housing bureau, was assisting workers at a Department of Education-run truancy center housed in the basement of the church at 12:47 p.m. on November 13 when a church custodian ran in, claiming that someone was trying to break into a van in the lot.
When the custodian confronted the man, he swung a wooden folding chair at him, the officer was told.
Ortiz and another female officer ran outside and found Blanco using the folding chair to bash in the van’s window.
The officers ordered Blanco in both English and Spanish to stop what he was doing and drop the chair.
But Blanco didn’t heed the warnings and began charging the two officers, swinging the chair as he closed the 40-foot gap between them, according to police reports.
Ortiz fired one round, hitting Blanco in the chest. He was rushed to Coney Island Hospital, where he died of his injuries two hours later, officials said.
Paramedics removed Ortiz to Lutheran Medical Center for trauma. She has since been released from the hospital.
Police officials said that Ortiz hesitated taking any aggressive action up to the point where she felt that her life was in danger.
“She backed up but he closes the distance and is just about on top of her when she fires,” Deputy Commissioner and NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told reporters.
Blanco was just about a foot away from Ortiz when she opened fire.
Officials said that a full investigation into the shooting is underway, but they do not expect any charges to be filed against Ortiz.
None of the school-age children biding their time at the truancy center after being caught skipping school saw the shooting, although many said they had heard the shot.
Blanco’s relatives said that the 45-year-old illegal alien had recently fallen into a deep depression after he couldn’t find work as a construction worker. He had also begun drinking heavily, they said.
Cops didn’t find any identification on Blanco following the shooting, but investigators managed to track down his relatives through a cell phone they recovered from his pocket.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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