Police fatally shoot Bergen Beach man following chase on the Belt Parkway

The scene of the shooting on the Belt Parkway in Bath Beach.
The scene of the shooting on the Belt Parkway in Bath Beach.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

NYPD officers shot and killed a man who allegedly rammed his vehicle into a police cruiser during a high-speed chase on the Belt Parkway in Bath Beach Thursday afternoon, and then later pointed a gun at cops.

Police spokesperson Det. George Tsourovakas confirmed that officers had shot the man just after 4 pm, and dispatchers over police radio reported the chase, and the crash. Police identified the man on Friday as Brian Astarita, 65, of Bergen Beach.

Police spokesperson Lt. John Grimpel declined to identify the officers who shot Astarita. “We never release officers’ names in shootings,” Grimpel said.

Chief Rodney Harrison said at a press conference that the incident began when the highway patrol officer pulled over Astarita, who was driving a Jeep SUV, but when the officer approached the vehicle he sped away.

The officer sped up towards him and attempted to box him in, Harrison said. Video obtained by CBS 2 shows Astarita swerving to avoid the unmarked cop car which had sped up in front of him.

Later, after both the officer and the speeder have pulled over near the Bay Parkway exit in Bath Beach, Astarita stands opposite the officer holding what appears to be a gun, and the officer can be heard yelling at him to drop the gun. Harrison said that Astarita pulled a gun out of his backseat and began pointing it at the officer and others who had arrived as backup, and continued toward. Afterwards, in graphic video posted on Twitter, a succession of gunshots can be heard, about twenty shots in all. Harrison said the officers had their body cameras activated at the time of the shooting. Astarita can be seen in video of the incident getting struck by a cascade of bullets.

Small orange cones representing ballistics near the scene of the shootingPhoto by Lloyd Mitchell

Video published by the New York Post shows that the officers shot Astarita while crouching behind their parked squad car. Video posted by the Twitter account NYC Scanner show the officers apparently begin shooting again after an extended pause, and shooting the victim after he is already lying on the ground.

Cops on scene recovered a handgun, Harrison noted.

The officers can be seen rendering aid to Astarita before EMTs arrived. Paramedics rushed the shooting victim to NYU Langone Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The incident is being investigated as a possible “suicide-by-cop,” and a use-of-force investigation has been opened, as occurs after every police shooting, according to Department spokesperson Officer Taylor Cannon.

“As with any police-involved shooting, the department’s Force Investigation Division will conduct a full and thorough investigation,” said Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The results of that investigation and relevant videos will be released upon completion.”

Filson did not specify whether the mayor had seen videos of the incident. The investigation remains ongoing.

State Attorney General Letitia James announced Sunday, Nov. 14, that her office was launching an investigation into Astarita’s death. The Attorney General’s office serves as a special prosecutor in incidents where police officers cause someone’s death; that power was initially proffered in an executive order by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was codified into law by the State Legislature last year.

This story is developing. Check back here for further updates.

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell and Kevin Duggan