July 29 2014
A sex offender who had been on the run for two years after skipping bail for molesting two boys under the age of seven in California has been shot and killed in New York City in a dramatic shoot-out with federal marshals and police.
Charles Mozdir, 32, was killed in the exchange and his weapon has been recovered.
His case had featured on CNN’s The Hunt last week, which is believed to have led to a tip-off about his location.
The shooting happened just after 1pm in the West Village, not far from New York University, when a fugitive
apprehension task force tried to serve a warrant at a shop called Smoking Culture NYC.
The store sells items including bongs, cigarettes and cigars and it is believed that Mozdir was behind the counter and working when the authorities showed up.
Two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective were wounded in the shooting which erupted at around 1pm today.
The officers were part of a special task force investigating Mozdir.
They entered the shop to serve him with a warrant when he pulled a revolver on them. He also had 20 spare rounds of ammunition in his pockets.
Sources say one of the marshals was shot in the leg and the NYPD detective was shot three times.
Emergency workers transported all four victims to Bellevue Hospital, where the suspect died.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton would not say today how the U.S. Marshalls’ task force, a joint operation with the police, became aware that Mozdir was in the shop.
One of the marshals was shot in the leg and the NYPD detective – named as NYPD Detective Mario Muniz, 45, – was shot three times.
The detective has 20 years service with the NYPD and had recently been promoted, Bratton said.
Mayor Bill De Blasio said on Monday that the officers were recovering and ‘in good spirits’. He added that the detective’s life had been saved by his bullet-proof vest.
Jerry DeWitt, who lives on the West Village street where the shooting took place, arrived minutes after the shoot-out and described the scene as ‘pure chaos’.
‘You expect anything to happen here but not this,’ he told MailOnline.
Another resident, Christine Rucci, who lives opposite the shop, told MailOnline that at first she heard a loud noise and when she looked out her front window she noticed the shop was surrounded by a number of unmarked cars and there was a helicopter overhead.
She estimated that there are four elementary schools nearby. ‘What is really upsetting is that he was a sex offender and that he had a gun,’ she told MailOnline.
Ms Rucci, who has lived in the area for 25 years said it used to feel very safe – especially when Michael Bloomberg’s daughter lived in the same building – but that there had also been a shooting on Mother’s Day on the same street.
A $1 million bench warrant was issued for Mozdir’s arrest on June 15, 2012, after he skipped an arraignment in San Diego Superior Court on child sexual assault charges, according to Steve Walker, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney. He had posted $250,000 bail.
Mozdir had been wanted on five counts of lewd acts upon a child younger than 14 and a charge of attempting to keep a witness from prosecuting a crime, according to the criminal complaint.
The one-time wedding photographer has been accused by a family friend of molesting her seven-year-old son while babysitting him in Coronado, near San Diego.
After he disappeared, investigators had found sickening images of child pornography and bestiality on his cell phone and computers at his home.
He was considered armed and dangerous since a roommate told police that Mozdir, armed with two guns, threatened to kill himself and a victim’s father.
Law enforcement had hunted him from California to Mexico to the deep south and finally to New York City.
According to CNN, after the episode of The Hunt featuring Mozdir aired authorities received a tip that he was working at a restaurant in Manhattan, but the information didn’t pan out.
After CNN re-aired Mozdir’s episode on Sunday night, another tip came in that resulted in an address for Mozdir, according to John Walsh.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says the three are stable and that, ‘We pray everything we are hearing is true and that these officers will be OK in the long run.’
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the fugitive task force seeks absconders from other states.
Coronado police said in a statement: ‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to the brave officers assigned to the U.S. Marshall’s fugitive task force who were wounded in a shootout with suspected child molester Charles Mozdir in New York this morning.
‘Mozdir was wanted in a 2012 child molest case in Coronado. He failed to appear in court on the charges and a $1 million warrant was issued.’
Mozdir allegedly molested a young boy whose parents were friends of his while he served as a babysitter in June 2012, reported CNN in The Hunt.
He molested the boy while his mother slept in bed next to him, his father told CNN.
Child pornography was recovered at Mozdir’s home, U.S. Marshals Service deputy Brian Grimes told CNN.
Mozdir was later arrested and made bail, he then skipped an arraignment and went on the run.
Mozdir allegedly molested a second boy in a similar incident, the channel said.
Mozdir’s scent was found by a hound on a highway and his car was recovered in Georgia, but investigators were unable to find the alleged child molester, CNN said.
In 2013 , authorities said ‘Mozdir made threats to take his own life and threats have been made to the victim’s family.’
The violence recalls a deadly shootout that left a gunman and two auxiliary New York City police officers dead on another Greenwich Village street in March 2007.
That gunman, David Garvin, killed a bartender, according to police, and then turned crowded streets packed with storied taverns into a shooting gallery.
Unarmed volunteer officers Eugene Marshalik and Nicholas Todd Pekearo were killed.
– By Louise Boyle and David McCormack and Zoe Szathmary