NEW YORK – An officer shot in the face during a traffic stop died Saturday, and the suspected gunmen are now facing first-degree murder charges, officials said.
Russel Timoshenko, 23, died while on life support at Kings County Hospital from the injuries he suffered early Monday when he and his partner stopped a stolen SUV in Brooklyn, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Timoshenko had been paralyzed, suffered brain swelling and was unable to breathe on his own. His partner, Herman Yan, hit in the chest and arm but saved by his bullet-resistant vest, was released from the hospital Tuesday.
Two suspects captured in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania were charged in the assault; a third man was suspected of driving the getaway car, police said.
"Officer Timoshenko made the ultimate sacrifice with unflinching bravery and dedication to duty," Kelly said. "We'll never forget him, and we're more committed than ever to seeing to it that those responsible for this crime are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Timoshenko's family was by his side at the time of death, and a processional of officers, including Yan, filed past the body to pay condolences.
Kings County Hospital doctor Robert Kurtz said the activity in the officer's brain had ceased. "And that's death in New York state," he said.
By the time Timoshenko arrived at the hospital, he had been without oxygen at least 15 minutes. "From the second those bullets hit, he was unable to breathe and unable to move a muscle in his body," Kurtz said.
Both Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was out of town when Timoshenko died, expressed their condolences to the officer's family.
"While I can't know the anguish they are going through, I want Russel's parents Leonid and Tatyana to know their son was a hero," Bloomberg said in a statement. "It does not provide any consolation, but I am proud of the investigators who worked so swiftly to apprehend those that committed this detestable and cowardly act."
The suspects, Robert J. Ellis and Dexter Bostic, were ordered held without bail Friday at a Brooklyn hearing. They now face charges of first-degree murder in Timoshenko's death and could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said.
The suspects had been facing charges of attempted murder. A new complaint was being written and an arraignment was set for Monday, the district attorney's office said. The suspects also face charges of assault on a police officer and other crimes.
Pennsylvania state troopers captured Ellis early Thursday morning in the Pocono Mountains, ending an intense manhunt that spanned three days and several states. Bostic was caught near the same remote spot on Wednesday.
Investigators said the two had a friend slip them out of the city by car shortly after the shooting. After pooling their money to fill up on gas in Connecticut, they agreed to have the unidentified driver keep going until there was a half a tank, then turn back and leave them behind in the wilderness, police said.
"They were literally hiding in the woods in a desperate attempt to avoid apprehension," said prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi.
Authorities say Bostic and Ellis, both 34-year-old ex-convicts, were riding in a stolen SUV driven by a third man, Lee Woods, when police pulled the vehicle over early Monday morning in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights.
As officers Yan and Timoshenko approached either side of the vehicle, Bostic shot Timoshenko in the face with a .45-caliber pistol, and Ellis fired on Yan with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, police said.
Prosecutors said in court that both Bostic and Ellis had made incriminating statements about the shooting. They also said investigators had lifted Ellis's fingerprints off a Popeye's Chicken box that was found — along with the guns used in the shooting and a third firearm — in a bag ditched near the shooting scene.
But defense attorney Danielle Eaddy said Ellis was driving the car, not Woods, and insisted Ellis had not fired on the officer.
"Yes, he was behind the wheel of the car," she said, "but that's a far cry from attempted murder in the first degree."
The lawyer also accused police of assaulting her client after his arrest.
Police spokesman Paul Browne denied police had abused the prisoner and said forensic evidence supported charges that Woods was the driver.