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14 Police Officers Shot by Sniper in N.Y.; Gunman Slain, 2 Children Found Dead

Times Staff Writer

A sniper firing shotgun blasts from his high-rise apartment wounded 14 policemen Monday and forced the closing of a main roadway leading to Wall Street’s financial district for more than nine hours.

When officers finally managed to enter the 11th-floor apartment and capture the gunman, they found his two children dead. Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward said that the sniper had shot his 8-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. The gunman, identified by police as Cho Mun Chu, 45, was mortally wounded after he opened fire on officers who were removing his front door.

Eleven of the policemen at work on the door were hit by shotgun pellets and were taken to Bellevue Hospital with superficial wounds. A bullet-resistant shield had blocked the full force of the gunfire. Chu also was taken to the hospital, where he died after undergoing surgery.

Massive Traffic Jams

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Because of the danger from shotgun fire, police set up roadblocks and closed part of the highway for 9 1/2 hours as detectives tried to negotiate with Chu. Motorists returning to work after the Labor Day holiday were met by massive rush-hour traffic jams on the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Drive and on nearby bridges.

During the long standoff, the gunman fired at least 11 shots. Blasts fired from windows wounded the first three policemen who arrived at the apartment house, which faces New York’s harbor near the Manhattan Bridge. Rescuers were pinned down for a time before they could take their companions to a nearby hospital, where they were treated for multiple pellet wounds. The three were not seriously injured.

Fifty police officers converged on the area, including sharpshooters and spotters in a helicopter. They soon traced the gunman to the apartment in the Fiorello La Guardia Housing development, named for New York’s former mayor. They quickly closed all lanes of the highway outside his window and cordoned off a four-block area around the building.

The day soon became a major test of the police department’s linguistic and technical resources. Police hostage negotiators were unable to talk to Chu until an interpreter who spoke Chinese arrived.

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While sharpshooters waited behind highway pillars and on balconies flanking the gunman’s apartment, other policemen used a yellow pole to gingerly extend a television camera in front of one of the apartment’s windows. The camera showed powder burns on the windows, Chu with his shotgun and the hand of a child. Blue bulletproof bomb blankets attached to ropes also were lowered in front of other windows to block further gunfire. Five huge emergency trucks containing complex police equipment were parked near the building.

Believed Distraught on Family

Three times during the negotiations, Chu fired his shotgun, striking the door frame and the floor. Detectives said he appeared to be distraught over family and financial problems.

Finally, more than eight hours after the incident began, police decided to enter the apartment. As preparations began, police and the Coast Guard closed the East River to boat traffic between the Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridges.

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Heavily armed and armored emergency service policemen started to remove the front door, which was locked and barricaded with furniture. Ward said Chu fired twice at the police officers seeking to enter. One shot struck the bullet resistant shield, the other hit the wall behind the policemen. Officers fired back, striking Chu in the chest, the commissioner said .

Ward said that, at one point, around noon, police determined that Chu’s daughter was still alive and negotiators sought to devise a strategy to separate Chu from his child. But, when policemen went into the apartment, they found the bodies of the children in a hallway and kitchen area. Police said Chu had shot the youngsters in the head and had attempted to cover both bodies with blankets and pillows.

Neighbors said Chu had recently moved into the building and had gotten into disputes with other residents and the management. Detectives said police officers had been called to the building previously because of complaints about Chu, whose wife, Hui Choy Chu, is believed to be in Taiwan.


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