A 26-year-old Brooklyn man, who was arrested after a wild shootout with police officers in the East New York section of Brooklyn on Tuesday, has been linked through fingerprints to the so-called Zodiac shootings of four men in 1990, police officials said Tuesday night.
The discovery was made, one official said, after a detective who was involved in the earlier case questioned the man arrested on Tuesday and noticed similarities between what the suspect said and letters sent by a man claiming responsibility for the 1990 shootings."Something rang a bell in his head," said the official, who insisted on anonymity.
An official at the 75th Precinct, where the man was questioned and made a written statement about Tuesday's shootout, said the detective also noticed similarities between the handwriting of the suspect, Heriberto Seda, and notes left at the earlier shooting scenes and several letters mailed in 1990.
Acting on his suspicions, the detective, Sgt. Joe Herbert, sent Seda's prints to police headquarters, where a computer matched them with two partial prints from the Zodiac case, the official said. One of the prints had been recovered at the scene of the shooting of a homeless man in Central Park, and another was taken from a letter mailed to The New York Post two years ago, he said.
"It looks like we've got him," the official said. "We have a print match."
It was the second time in a week that a remarkable confluence of luck, perseverence and fingerprints have led to the police to believe that they had cracked a seemingly baffling case. Last week, the police used a fingerprint from an arrest to track down a suspect in a string of attacks on women, including the slaying of a dry cleaner on Park Avenue and a brutal beating in Central Park.
Seda, whom police officials described as a military enthusiast with an arsenal of homemade guns and pipe bombs, shot his sister on Tuesday just after noon and then opened fire on police officers and pedestrians on a crowded street corner, the police said, leaving another person injured and leading to a tense standoff with hundreds of officers.
He exchanged dozens of wild shots with two transit officers and a bicycle patrol officer, then barricaded himself inside his third-floor apartment on Pitkin Avenue, pinned down police reinforcements with more gunfire from his window and kept the police at bay for more than three hours before surrendering, police officials said.
Searching his apartment afterward, investigators said they were surprised that the suspect had not caused much more bloodshed or damage. Inside, they said they found two completed pipe bombs and enough pipe and other materials for at least nine more.
Two of the four shootings linked to the Zodiac case occurred within several blocks of where Seda lives with his mother and sister.