Suspect killed in New York City shootout has San Diego ties

SAN DIEGO - A fugitive child molestation suspect from Coronado who had been on the run for more than two years died Monday in a New York City shootout that left three law enforcement officers wounded.

Charles Richard Thomas Mozdir, 32, opened fire when two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective tried to take him into custody at a Greenwich Village smoke shop about 1 p.m. Eastern time, authorities said.

Mozdir was apparently working at the shop as a salesman.

One witness next door said authorities went inside to talk to Mozdir and he just started shooting.

A law enforcement official briefed on the case told ABC News that Mozdir used an alias to get his job at the smoke shop.

"He was using an alias. But it's not like they did some real background check or anything at the smoke shop," the official said.

Mozdir's appearance "had changed dramatically," according to the official, who noted that the suspect had a long hair and a beard when he was spotted.

After he was positively identified, a group of law enforcement officers -- a detective and five U.S. marshals, all wearing protective vests -- entered the shop when the gunfire erupted.

According to the official, the detective was shot twice -- once in the chest area, lodging a slug in his vest, and the second in his belly just below the vest. Two marshals who were each struck once.

Mozdir had five shots in his gun and 20 bullets in his pocket, the official said, who added, "He wasn't going to be taken in."

The suspect was shot by marshals "at least six times," the official said.

The wounded officers were all in stable condition, said Steve Jurman, supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal with the San Diego Fugitive Task Force.

Mozdir, who was pronounced dead at a New York City hospital, had been sought since June 2012, when he failed to appear for a pretrial hearing on charges of molesting a child in Coronado. A judge issued a $1 million warrant for his arrest.

Six days after he failed to appear in court, the one-time wedding photographer's vehicle was located hidden in a swamp area in Georgia, Jurman said.

Once the case was turned over to the Fugitive Task Force, the case went cold, with investigators pouring through hundreds of tips, especially focusing on Mexico and Japan because Mozdir had made comments to people that he might flee to those countries, Jurman said.

Last week, information about Mozdir was aired on the CNN show "The Hunt" with John Walsh, producing a tip that ultimately led to Mozdir in New York City, Jurman said.

"Literally we sifted through hundreds of tips before we got that one," he said. "We don't know how long he had been there (in New York) … We started getting information that he may be near a smoke shop, which made sense. He had a history of working in smoke shops. He had a hobby of blowing glass, which would come in handy at a smoke shop. Those things were obviously, to us, gems."

The tipster reported seeing the wanted man with his missing black Labrador retriever 10 months earlier, Jurman said. "He had a black lab named Lucky. We know that we're going to get a lot of lookalikes, people calling saying, 'Yeah, somebody looked like that," but when that tip came in that said, 'Yeah, it's definitely him and he had the dog,' that was a corroborating factor that really made us focus."

Jurman added, "The tipster stated, 'I know Mozdir. He left here 10 months ago.'"
 

 

Jurman said Mozdir ripped out all of the hard drives from his computers when he left San Diego, possibly removing incriminating evidence.

Jurman said Mozdir lived on cash and probably had a pretty good fake ID.

"It's pretty rare that someone goes completely cold for that long of a period of time. It's pretty rare," Jurman told reporters.

Jurman said that based on the fugitive investigation alone, Mozdir was a "sociopath," noting he "clearly cut off all ties to everything he knew when he went out on the run, which is one of the things we rely on heavily in fugitive investigations."

"It's a very difficult thing to do to completely cut off all ties," Jurman said. "It truly takes almost a sociopath mentality."

Coronado police Det. Angel Cedeno said, "His roommate made mention to us he had made threats of violence toward the victim's father for the charges that were made."

Former neighbor Adam Connary said, "I'm 98 percent [sure] that's the guy who lived behind me. It's incredible that someone like that lived that close to me and i had no idea."

Connary used to live in the front unit of a local duplex, with Mozdir living in the back unit. Mozdir's sister officially rented it out at the time.

10News learned a bail bondsman scoped out the house for six months in 2012, eventually tracking down Mozdir's sister.

The bondsman told the court that Mozdir's sister "claimed that 'Charlie' didn't do anything wrong and was being 'railroaded' by the bail company and the police."

His sister added that the victim in the case was "his friend ... and she couldn't understand why they were lying about what had happened."

U.S. Marshals officials released this statement:

"Two deputy U.S. marshals from the Eastern District of New York and one NYPD officer were injured in a shooting incident this afternoon while attempting to arrest a suspect in Manhattan. The U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force was working on a case in which the suspect, Charles Mozdir, was charged with child molestation in Coronado, California. All three law enforcement officers have been transported to a medical facility in New York."

Mozdir was profiled on CNN's The Hunt with John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted. Watch CNN's report on Mozdir's involvement in the shootout:

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