- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

YAPHANK, N.Y. (AP) - A veteran police officer who fatally shot a robbery suspect who tried to carjack a vehicle with two young boys sitting in the backseat should be commended for her “decisive, heroic, necessary action,” authorities said Monday.

The officer, a nine-year veteran whose identity wasn’t disclosed, shot and killed Denzel Brown after he shoplifted two pairs of headphones from a Bay Shore electronics store and tried to steal a car on Sunday night, Suffolk County police said.

Brown, who was from Amityville, was zapped with a Taser stun gun and was shot with the officer’s Glock handgun following a chase through a parking lot and into a nearby neighborhood, and he died later at a hospital. During the chase, Brown unsuccessfully tried to steal two other vehicles before finding a running car occupied by two adults and two children in a driveway.

Police Chief James Burke said at a briefing Monday that police had received a call that a suspect had stolen headphones from a Best Buy store. A witness to the theft pointed out the fleeing suspect to the officer as she approached the store.

Brown then ran across a parking lot, where the officer fired the first Taser shot at him, police said. The Taser shot proved ineffective, and Brown continued to flee, they said.

Brown tried to steal an unoccupied vehicle and then confronted a driver on a nearby street, but the driver sped away, police said. He then found the running car as a man and a woman were getting out, and he forced his way into it as the officer approached, Burke said.

With the woman screaming that two children, ages 4 and 6, were in the backseat, Brown repeatedly tried to back out of the driveway in a struggle with the officer, police said. The officer fired one shot from her gun and then tried to stop Brown by hitting him in the neck with another zap from her Taser.

Ultimately, the officer fired again at what Burke called “point blank range,” hitting Brown in the abdomen.

The children were whisked away from the car uninjured. The officer was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries and was released.

A preliminary police investigation indicated the shooting was justified, but the investigation is ongoing.

Police Commissioner Edward Webber said: “The police officer should be commended for her decisive, heroic, necessary action in protecting the lives of these two young children.”

Police were looking into whether Brown, who had an arrest record for robbery and drug possession, had gang affiliations. Until that’s determined, the officer’s name won’t be released for her protection.

Burke said officers are trained to use the least lethal force option available to them.

“You could see in this case this officer not once, but twice, tried to utilize the less lethal force option of the Taser,” he said.

The police department investigates whenever an officer deploys a Taser, Burke said. Last year, Tasers were used 146 times and the “overwhelming majority” of firings were effective, he said.

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