None of these officers were involved in Tuesday's friendly fire incident. Photo via Flickr user Nick Gulotta
Once Detective Jon Gladstone saw his suspects hand heroin to an undercover officer, he went in for the arrest. It was around 6:15 PM on Tuesday evening in Bushwick when the 37-year-old New York City police officer and his partner moved their cop car in front of the alleged dealers's minivan and approached from either side of the vehicle.
The three suspects tried to back out after Gladstone reached inside, bumping into another police car in the process, as the Daily News reports. During the ensuing chaos, four shots were fired, and one of the bullets hit Gladstone's shoulder in an apparent case of friendly fire.
Police in the Greater New York have come under scrutiny for cop-on-cop shootings in the past. In 2008 and 2009, a set of racially charged incidents led to to the creation of a task force on the issue. The 2010 investigation revealed that out of 14 fatal mistaken-identity shootings of cops nationwide over the previous 15 years, ten were of non-white people.
Tuesday's shooting seems rather less complicated. And if what witnesses say is true, this was the third friendly fire incident of 2016, meaning half of all New York police officers who've taken a bullet this year were hit by their colleagues rather than perps.
That surprising stat puts a dent in the idea that cops are under siege––one that proliferated after a man executed two officers in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn in late 2014. The shooting came amidst a wave of protests against police brutality, and some police defenders argued it was the tragic but logical conclusion to a wave of anti-cop sentiment.
The Bushwick shooting also highlights the extent of the danger officers routinely face for what seems like awful little reward. The cash value of the "American Dream" brand heroin purchased in the sting was $80, and besides the fact that Gladstone almost died during the bust, the NYPD is likely out thousands of dollars in damages to the police car, hospital bills, and sick leave for the injured cop. (Gladstone is expected to make a full recovery.)
Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD detective sergeant and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says police work is inherently dangerous and that these small-time drug busts happen every day in the city—in hopes of catching a so-called big fish.
"Since heroin is the biggest problem every jurisdiction is fighting, this is the area that they should be concentrated on," he tells VICE. "There will be a lot more enforcement, and unfortunately, more incidents like yesterday if they go after it as hard as they should."
According to the NYPD, two suspects were taken into custody Tuesday evening and a third remained at large, possibly after committing a carjacking to escape.
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