An undercover officer was shot and seriously wounded at a subway station by two fellow policemen who mistook him for a holdup man and fired up to 21 rounds, police said.
Officer Derwin Pannell was shot in the neck Tuesday night as he and his partner tried to arrest a fare evader, Transit Police spokesman Al O'Leary said. Two of the shots were blocked by Pannell's bulletproof vest, O'Leary said.An organization representing black police officers told black transit cops to refuse any undercover assignments until a new training program is devised. Pannell is black; the officers who shot him are white.
"We need our transit cops to know that the black guy wearing Adidas sneakers and a backwards baseball cap might be a cop," said Transit Police Officer Eric Adams, vice president of the Grand Council of Guardians.
Transit Police Chief Michael O'Connor agreed to let Guardians members shape a plainclothes training program. And any black or Hispanic officers who refuse undercover assignments will be allowed to patrol in uniform, O'Leary said.
"Chief O'Connor understands that there is a possibility that one of the factors contributing to the shooting of an African-American officer was that he was black," O'Leary said.
"But the chief also believes that an Hispanic or black officer would have done the same thing in the situation as the white officers who opened fire."
O'Leary said this is what police believe happened:
Pannell, 26, and his partner, who is white, saw a man and woman jump a turnstile and chased down the woman. Pannell had his gun drawn as his partner searched her for weapons. Three plainclothes officers came upon the scene.
"What they saw in the poor lighting was a man with a gun and another man going through a woman's purse," O'Leary said. "They thought they had come upon a robbery in process."