A federal immigration officer shot a Mexican man in the face during an enforcement raid in Gravesend on Thursday morning, according to police.
The ICE agent was attempting to arrest the boyfriend of the victim’s mother at their West 12th Street home at around 8:15 am, causing a bloody scuffle when the officer fired one shot that ricocheted off Erick Diaz-Cruz’s hand and lodged into his cheek.
Emergency medical personnel rushed to the scene between Quentin Road and Highlawn Avenue and took 26-year-old Diaz-Cruz to Maimonides Medical Center in stable condition shortly after, according to police.
Immigration authorities had arrived on the scene in a Chevy Suburban with the intention of arresting 36-year-old Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, according to an eye witness.
“He was right there and the officer pulled a gun, and shot the guy. It just didn’t look professional. He wouldn’t tell the guy why they were arresting him,” said Avi Zlita, who still had blood on his sleeve after tending to Diaz after the shooting.
Following the shooting, the New York Police Department took the lead investigating the incident, and took Avendano-Hernandez to the 62nd Precinct for further investigation. It is not currently clear if he will be turned over to ICE’s custody.
According to another witness, the ICE officers tased and pepper sprayed Avendano-Hernandez “about 20 times” as he ran through the streets, resisting their attempts to cuff him.
“They were looking for [Avendano], so they tackled him and he didn’t want to go and they tried to cuff him and they pepper sprayed and tased him,” said Kevin Yanez Cruz, the wounded victim’s brother. “The gun [was] literally right on the side of my head when it went off.”
The witnesses suspect that the ICE agents targeted Avendano-Hernandez because he had recently received a ticket for driving without a license.
Diaz-Cruz, however, had been living in the United States legally, according to his brother.
“My brother was not in trouble – he is here legally,” he said. “My brother pays taxes – he’s been here since he was 18. This cop aimed for the kill.”
The raid comes just hours after President Donald Trump launched a graphic tirade against New York City’s ‘sanctuary city’ policies during his State of the Union Address on Wednesday.
“Just 29 days ago, a criminal alien freed by the sanctuary city of New York was charged with the brutal rape and murder of a 92-year-old woman,” said Trump. “The killer had been previously arrested for assault, but under New York’s sanctuary policies, he was set free. If the city had honored ICE’s detainer request, his victim would be alive today.”
In the aftermath of the bloody incident, dozens of activists and elected officials gathered outside Maimonides Medical Center, waiting hours in the cold for an update on Diaz-Cruz’s condition, and to protest the immigration enforcement agency’s tactics in Kings County.
“It’s disgusting that they’ve gone to these lengths,” said Flatbush resident Charlie Moran, a member of the pro-immigrant Internationalist Group. “It’s outrageous.”
One community leader said at 5 pm that ICE agents remained in the hospital, and that activists would stay to protect the victim’s family from ICE agents when they left the hospital.
“We’re going to stay here until ICE leaves and the family goes home,” said Ravi Ragbir, the executive director of New Sanctuary Coalition. “This hospital should be a sanctuary place.”
Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park) also visited the hospital, where he met with the victim and his family, and assured activists that all was well.
“Good things are happening,” said Menchaca, who didn’t elaborate on the victim’s condition, but indicated that it was improving. “New Yorkers are coming to help New Yorkers.”