Two undercover NYPD detectives shot and killed a career criminal Saturday night after he flashed a BB gun at the officers as they arrested a friend of his, an alleged drug dealer.
“They’re cops, you idiot,” the alleged drug dealer, Nolan Rivera, 33, told his 42-year-old pal just before cops fired in the 11:45 p.m. incident, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
Police were investigating Sunday night whether the dead man with an epic rap sheet had arrived on the scene of the arrest thinking he had opportunity to rob some robbers — but they turned out to be plain-clothes narcotics detectives.
The strange outburst of violence in a quiet section of Ridgewood, Queens began when cops arranged a “buy and bust” from the alleged drug dealer at Gates and Seneca Aves., police said.
Rivera emerged from the building and saw the pair of detectives, so he swallowed a bag of crack cocaine, police said.
While arresting Rivera under a store awning, the acquaintance emerged from a livery cab, appearing “out of nowhere,” Browne said.
The man, whose name has not yet been released, asked the handcuffed Rivera what was happening, failing to notice the detectives’ badges, which witnesses said were visible.
He then pulled a Walther CP99 compressed air pistol from his waistband and pointed it at the cops, Browne said.
The gun bears a striking resemblance to a Glock 19 pistol.
Both detectives opened fire. A 48-year-old detective pulled the trigger on his Smith and Wesson pistol five times while the other, who is 42, shot once using his Glock 19. Three bullets struck the man in the leg and torso, police said.
It was the first time either officer had fired his gun while on duty, police said.
A worker at a nearby deli said pulling the BB gun was a horrifying mistake.
“The guy got killed because he had a BB gun,” said Abdul Ali, 24, of the Classic Deli and Grocery near the crime scene. “How could (cops) tell it was fake? Especially when it’s dark.”
Rivera later told cops the dead man seemed to suspect that Rivera was being robbed, and thought he could make some easy money, police sources said.
“It appears to be a crime of opportunity for the man with the imitation gun…but it’s still under investigation,” a police source said.
Other cops involved in the operation were inside Rivera’s building when the shooting occurred, a police source said.
Police said the man had a criminal history that included 39 prior arrests, including four in Miami.
The New York charges were mostly drug-related, and also included multiple arrests for first-degree robbery, criminal possession of a weapon, and assault, police said.
Rivera was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, tampering with physical evidence, and criminal possession of marijuana. He was unharmed but taken to the hospital after swallowing the bag of drugs, police said.
One Ridgewood resident wasn’t perturbed by the shooting.
“That’s one less drug dealer in the neighborhood. Good for them,” said Ricardo Valentine, 57, who lives next to the crime scene.