Innocent Bystander Dies: Undercover Officer Accidentally Shoots Man Standing Behind Suspect

An innocent bystander dies hours after being at the wrong place at the wrong time during a robbery/gun-buy situation gone bad. An undercover NYPD officer accidentally wounded Felix Kumi, 61, of Mount Vernon.

Newsday reports that the officer was confronting an armed robber Friday around 4 p.m. when Kumi was fatally shot while the robber was wounded. Kumi died from his injuries at 12:55 a.m. Saturday at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, according to police.

The innocent bystander who died was standing behind the robber when the officer fired his gun. Kumi was struck twice in the torso.

The actual target of the shots was intended for a 37-year-old man from New Jersey. He hasn’t been identified by police at this point. The suspect apparently pointed a .45-caliber replica handgun towards the officer before he shot back. The victim was also transported to Jacobi Medical Center, but his condition is unknown.

Kumi was on his way to pick up a car that was in the repair shop before the shooting happened. Sharon Johnson, a neighbor of Kumi’s, said that he was a kind, devoted dad of two. The bystander was also a devout Jehovah Witness and bus driver for the Mount Vernon school district. He was walking past the crime scene when he was shot by the officer.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton delivered a statement Saturday that expressed his “profound sorrow and sympathy” for the victim’s family.

“Mr. Kumi was blameless, and this tragedy has tested and tried his family. I pray that they may find comfort in their hope of resurrection and awakening.”

Another suspect was involved in the case as well, gun seller Jeffrey Aristy, 28, of the Bronx. He was arrested after trying to flee the scene and charged with criminal sale of a firearm and controlled substance.

The innocent bystander died after he was shot by an undercover officer from the Firearms Investigation Unit. Aristy called him about guns for sale and met him in the Bronx. Aristy was in the officer’s car when he told him to drive to Mount Vernon to meet the unidentified suspect. The robber then “pointed a gun at the officer’s head while demanding money.”

When the undercover officer handed him over $2,000 in “buy money,” the robber tried to flee. Backup was alerted by the officer before he got out of the vehicle “in order to engage” the man who’d just robbed him, say police. The officer then struck the 37-year-old suspect and Kumi.

President of the NYPD detectives’ union, Michael Palladino, tells the New York Post, “The undercover business is perpetually dangerous. It’s obvious to me the seller in this operation set up our undercover to be ripped off and it backfired on them.”

[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC]