NEW YORK – A bullet likely fired by police killed a man whose struggle with an acquaintance over a gun touched off a shootout with officers and the man he was fighting, according to autopsy and ballistics reports Monday.
Luis Soto, 21, was hit five times and died from a wound to the torso that pierced his organs, according to Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office. A single bullet recovered from the body was the shot that killed him, Borakove said.
Police said the recovered bullet was consistent with those used by the officers. It's not clear whether any of the other four gunshot wounds were inflicted by the acquaintance, Angel Alvarez, 23. The weapon Alvarez had was fired four times; it's unclear who fired the rounds.
The violence erupted around 3 a.m. Sunday during a block party in Harlem that ran hours past its scheduled end. Police from several units, three officers in plainclothes and several others in uniform arrived from a separate shooting farther north to help disperse the crowd.
At that time, Alvarez ran from a nearby playground north to two parked cars on Lenox Avenue, where Soto was standing, police said. According to witnesses, the two had a long-standing beef, possibly over a woman, and Alvarez punched Soto and knocked him to the ground. One witness told police Soto pulled a gun from his waistband, and the two men struggled with it. One or possibly two shots were fired, though it's not clear who fired the weapon or if both men had guns, police said.
Alvarez got up and took off, firing more shots toward an officer in uniform, who squeezed off two rounds in return. One of the officer's shots hit plainclothes officer Michael Tedeschi in his bullet-resistant vest, police said. Tedeschi, 36, was expected to fully recover.
Meanwhile, three plainclothes officers nearby fired 44 times.
Another officer, Alfredo Vargas, 28, was grazed in a hand and was expected to be fine. Three other bystanders were also hit by bullets and were expected to recover. Alvarez had 21 gunshot wounds and was in stable condition. It's not clear how many bullets that hit him were fired by police.
Officers recovered one weapon, a .38 revolver, from Alvarez and four bullets had been fired, police said. A host of casings and fragments were recovered.
The officers involved in the shooting were on desk duty pending both an investigation and departmental review. Under common procedure, the Manhattan district attorney's office will first decide whether to bring the case before a grand jury, and then a shooting review board will look into the incident.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said the department would "await our standard reviews the department conducts for all police-involved shootings," before commenting on whether the shooting appeared to be within department guidelines.
An officer is allowed to use deadly force when faced with an imminent threat of injury or death.
Police are investigating the relationship between Alvarez and Soto and what started the fight, and are looking into the gun, which had been purchased in Georgia.