Volume 76, Number 43 | March 21 - 27, 2007

Villager photo by Patrick Andrade

Police took out number signs to mark the bullet shells left Wednesday night at DeMarco’s restaurant on W. Houston St. after David Garvin fatally shot the bartender, Alfredo Romero Morales, 15 times in the back.

Village auxiliary officer pair made the ultimate sacrifice

By Lincoln Anderson

With a sea of hundreds of officers in blue lining W. 14th St. and giving a final crisp white-gloved salute, slain auxiliary police officer Nicholas Pekearo received a full inspector’s funeral on Saturday morning.

After the service inside Redden’s Funeral Home had ended, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly emerged, both wearing green ties for St. Patrick’s Day. Six officers then carried out Pekearo’s coffin, draped in an American flag with green Irish accent stripes — the Police Department flag.

Two officers standing at the top of the stairs next to Redden’s entrance played taps on silver bugles, as the flag on the coffin was taken and folded.

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel
Ian Brill, one of Nicholas Pekearo’s best friends from high school, shared a hug with another mourner after the funeral.
Next, from above, there was a roar as five police helicopters came thundering down 14th St., in V formation, going from east to west, in an honorary flyover.

Deputy Inspector Theresa Shortell, the Sixth Precinct’s commanding officer, then handed Iola Latman, Pekearo’s mother — a diminutive woman wearing a black down parka — the flag and they shared a long embrace. At last letting go, Shortell saluted her, turned and solemnly strode off.

Preceded by a contingent of bagpipers, the hearse carrying Pekearo’s cremated ashes then slowly drove away from the neighborhood where he was born and lived all of his too-short life.

The following day, a funeral was held in Brooklyn for Yevgeniy “Eugene” Marshalik, Pekearo’s patrol partner on the Sixth Precinct auxiliary. Again, Shortell presented the mother of a slain auxiliary officer with the police flag from his coffin.

The two young auxiliaries — as Kelly had said at St. Vincent’s Hospital early Thursday morning after they had been pronounced dead — had made “the ultimate sacrifice.”

In a terrifying night of gunfire and murder that shook the Village, Pekearo, 28, who grew up on Morton St., and Marshalik, 19, a Russian immigrant and New York University student, were killed Wed., March 14, after they confronted, then followed David Garvin, 42, who had just gunned down Alfredo Romero Morales, 33, a bartender at DeMarco’s Italian restaurant at W. Houston and MacDougal Sts.

According to police, Garvin, a former Marine and wannabe filmmaker, had entered DeMarco’s at about 9:20 p.m. He was wearing a fake beard. He asked Morales for a menu, then when Morales turned to get one, shot him 15 times in the back with a handgun, killing him.

People nearby who heard the gunfire said it sounded like “a strip of firecrackers” going off or like “rapid fire,” like a machine gun. Many who were in the area reported smelling the lingering gun smoke, describing it as oily or “like tar.”

The motive for the shooting of Morales is murky, but police say Garvin — a regular at the restaurant, where he liked to eat spaghetti on Sundays — may have been upset about a friend of his being fired as the restaurant’s chef and blamed Morales. According to reports, Garvin also had been ejected from the restaurant several times by Morales.

After killing Morales, Garvin exited DeMarco’s and walked up MacDougal St. heading toward Bleecker St. Police say he was wearing a backpack containing a second handgun and an additional 100 bullets, plus several loaded magazine clips of bullets.

Police were nearby

Meanwhile, a Sixth Precinct sergeant and two officers in a patrol car happened to be heading west on W. Houston St. about a block away. The officers immediately noticed people out in front of the restaurant making panicked calls for help on their cell phones. They entered the restaurant, saw Morales dead on the floor and, based on witnesses’ accounts, radioed a description of the suspect.

Standing at the northeast corner of Sullivan and Bleecker Sts., Pekearo and Marshalik were on their usual beat. Catching Garvin’s description on their radios, they observed him heading their way on Bleecker St. and ordered him to drop his backpack. He complied, but then punched Pekearo in the face and ran up Sullivan St. on the east side of the street.

Pekearo and Marshalik — unarmed, like all auxiliaries, save for their nightsticks — shadowed him from the west side of Sullivan St., keeping the street between themselves and the suspect, during which time, police say, Garvin probably reloaded his weapon. About 50 feet up the block, Garvin suddenly crossed the street and fired repeatedly at Pekearo, who had crouched for cover behind a parked car, hitting him six to seven times at close range in the torso and shoulder.

Pekearo had been wearing a bulletproof vest, which he purchased with his own money, but it stopped only one shot.

Garvin then hunted down Marshalik, who had crossed the street and also ducked behind a parked car, shooting him once execution style in the back of the head.

The chilling slayings were captured on video security cameras of the Children’s Aid Society, at 219 Sullivan St., and released to the media by the Police Department.

Villager photos by Lincoln Anderson

Last Thursday, Tanju Sakar, co-owner of the Village Tannery, showed a bag with a bullet hole, at right, from Wednesday’s shootout. Sakar wasn’t in the store when gunman David Garvin had run inside on Wednesday night. At left, one of seven bullet holes that were left in the Village Tannery’s windows.

Diving for cover

As police officers converged down Sullivan St. from the north, Garvin fled south, and they engaged in a running gun battle, with bullets flying wildly down Sullivan and Bleecker Sts., some traveling blocks. Amid the mayhem, diners, bargoers and strollers out enjoying a beautiful, balmy evening dove for cover anywhere they could find it.

Retracing his path, Garvin darted around the corner of Bleecker St., into the Village Tannery’s open door and to the back of the store, possibly to reload again, police think. He then emerged from the boutique and, according to police, was ordered by officers to drop his weapon. When he didn’t obey, four officers opened fire with a hail of bullets, and he fell face down on the sidewalk by a tree pit.

The four officers in the final shootout included three from the Sixth Precinct and a Brooklyn officer doing an anti-terrorism response drill in the Village. One of the Sixth Precinct officers was Arthur Leahy, whose brother James, also a Sixth Precinct officer, died responding to the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.

According to reports, during the whole incident, police fired more than 50 shots at Garvin, while Garvin fired 23 shots at police.

The shootings elicited a massive police response. Hundreds of police flooded the area, including Emergency Service Unit officers carrying assault rifles and body shields. Police helicopters swirled in the night sky, sweeping the area with search lights.

Alper Beceren, 22, was working at the Village Tannery last Wednesday night when the commotion and gunfire broke out. Right before Garvin ran into the store, Beceren dove behind a counter, joining two women who had run inside seconds earlier whom he had told to hide there. One woman was from Costa Rico and had just seen a movie at the Angelika theater on Houston St.; the other was a local returning from the gym.

“I just lay down on the floor,” Beceren recalled the day after the shootout. “I couldn’t see him,” he said of Garvin. “I heard he was breathing.” Beceren said he had heard the sound of bullets whizzing through the store.

On Thursday, six bullet holes were visible in the Village Tannery’s western window and one in the eastern one. Tanju Sakar, one of the co-owners, said six of the store’s $700 animal-skin bags, as well as a boot, had bullet holes in them. The bullet casings recovered inside the store were silver, which, he said, a detective told him, is the color of the bullets police use.

Saw gunman killed

Next door, Harbir Singh, 44, proprietor of Jewels, a small jewelry store, described how a police officer had crouched for cover in his doorway and blasted away at Garvin at close range after he came out of the Village Tannery. The officer, who Singh thought looked looked like a rookie — “like a young kid” — had been injured in the eye by shattered glass from the Village Tannery’s windows and his face was covered in blood. Singh said the fusillade was so loud he feared his shop’s windows would shatter from the sound.

Yet Garvin didn’t go down right away, but swayed and slowly fell, he said.

“He looked strong, like a Marine,” Singh said. Looking at the mad gunman afterwards on the sidewalk, Singh counted five bullet holes in his chest, one in his neck, one in his back and three in his knee, plus all the flesh on his inner right forearm had been shot away. Singh said he saw the gun and three magazine clips on the ground and that police removed $34 and a keychain from Garvin’s pocket.

Giants linebacker Brandon Short and a female friend were inside Jewels looking at a turquoise necklace for her when the gunfight erupted. Singh said afterwards Short told him, “You saved my life, you locked the door.”

Gary Rosenberger, an economic forecaster who lives at the northwest corner of Bleecker and Sullivan Sts., said he had been working at his computer when he heard what he thought were firecrackers. When the full-blown gunfight exploded, he went to his window and saw two uniformed officers, pistols blazing, firing from across Bleecker St. — one taking cover behind a small payphone — though Rosenberger couldn’t see Garvin because of the angle.

Some of the bullets from the frenzied shootout traveled a block or more. Jonathan Partington, 37, manager of Sullivan Diner, just north of Houston St., said he’d heard the initial gunfire at DeMarco’s — though hadn’t realized what it was — while going into the sidewalk vault to get ice. When he came back up, he heard more shots — a lot more — and the sound of bullets in flight.

“It sounded like a really well-hit golf ball in the air,” he said of the whizzing bullets. “At that point, we all understood what was going on,” he said. “We had people in our kitchen hiding. We had people behind the bar. We were trying to lock the door, but people kept pounding on the door.”

The shots had indeed been close. The next day, at the Chinese qi-jong massage shop next door to Sullivan Diner, a bullet hole could be seen on either side of the protruding glass transom, as well as a round mark where the shot struck the inside of the front door frame.

Another bullet hole was found near Perrazo Funeral Home, on Bleecker St. between MacDougal St. and Sixth Ave.

David Goldis, a photographer known for his iconic shots of CBGB in the 1970s, lives at the southwest corner of Sullivan and Bleecker Sts. He said he had been eating a bowl of ravioli and listening to “American Idol” in the background, when he heard what he thought were firecrackers, but later realized was Pekearo and Marshalik being killed.

“At first I thought, ‘It gets noisy in this neighborhood,’ ” Goldis said.

Sean Bell factor

The indictments in the Sean Bell shooting were set to come down anytime and his wife remarked that maybe the grand jury had reached a decision and people were setting off firecrackers in response.

It wasn’t until the ensuing prolonged barrage of gunfire that they suspected something serious was going on, at which point his daughter and wife ran downstairs and saw Garvin’s lifeless body on the sidewalk.

Whether police had identified themselves in the Sean Bell shooting remains an issue. It was also an issue when, at 1:30 last Thursday morning, a detective knocked on Goldis’s door to question him.

“They wanted to know whether I thought I had heard shots — and did I hear anybody order, ‘Police, drop your weapons,’” Goldis said. Goldis said he didn’t hear anyone give that command, but admits he was tired, having stayed up 48 hours editing photos. But police seemed intent on finding out if people had heard officers say, “Police, drop your weapons,” he said.

Asked if he now feels afraid in his neighborhood, Goldis said, “No! No! I think that was a random incident. I’ve been living here long enough to know that this neighborhood’s safe. The main problem here is noise. The night before, I’d complained to the tapas bar below that they were too loud. It’s mainly loud college students and out-of-towners.”

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