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Armed suspect killed after NYC pharmacy holdup

NEW YORK — An armed bandit was shot and killed Thursday during a chaotic getaway following a robbery of prescription painkillers and cash at an East Harlem pharmacy, police said.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the masked man was killed by a patrol officer or during a second confrontation with a retired officer who was filling his car at a gas station across the street, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. A second suspect was still being sought.

The robbery happened at about 11 a.m., when two men entered the pharmacy located on First Avenue at East 119th Street.

Pharmacist Frank Wong told The Associated Press in a phone interview that a man brandishing a gun demanded Oxycontin and Percocet, two addictive painkillers.

"He told everyone to lie on the floor," Wong said. "Everyone was panicking. We never saw things like this before."

Wong gathered the drugs and handed them to the bandit. Meanwhile, another worker pushed a silent alarm, which seemed to summon the police almost immediately, he said.

As the men fled with the drugs and cash, three uniformed officers with guns drawn confronted the pair outside the door, Browne said. One of the suspects came out with his hands up and was subdued, but the other had a pistol raised in his hand, Browne said.

As the officers took cover, the armed man began to run across First Avenue with his gun pointed back at one of the officers. Investigators believe he tried to shoot, but the weapon misfired and the officer returned fire, Browne said.

The man continued to the other side of First Avenue where he was confronted again — this time by the armed retired police lieutenant. The retired officer fired at him before the suspect collapsed on the street with gunshot wounds to the head and shoulder, Browne said.

The dead man was wearing a stocking mask and carrying a revolver, Browne said. Cash was found in his pocket.

During the confusion, the second suspect managed to slip away, Browne said.

Wong said that this was the first time the pharmacy had been held up in 25 years but that he'd been aware of a rash of other drug store robberies around the region, including one just a few days ago in the same neighborhood. "It's gotten so crazy," he said.

Browne said police were investigating whether the holdup fits a pattern of other pharmacy holdups.