The NYPD calls it an accident, but the family of a bodega worker shot dead by a cop says it's murder - and the Bronx DA's Office yesterday said it has launched a probe into the killing.
"We believe it was murder unless it is proved any differently," said activist Fernando Mateo, who is representing the family of Reynaldo Cuevas, the 20-year-old fatally shot early Friday after running into a cop while fleeing a stickup at his family's shop in Morrisania.
Cuevas' family and their lawyer huddled with Bronx DA Robert Johnson for an hour yesterday.
Afterward, at a press conference, Cuevas' mother, Ana, fainted and was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she was expected to be released after treatment for high blood pressure.
Ana Cuevas "told the DA that she wants justice, that she wants to make sure the police officer who shot her son goes in front of the grand jury," said Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America.
"She believes that her son was murdered," he said, adding. "She understands that the three young men that went in to rob the store are just as responsible as the police officer."
The DA didn't promise a grand-jury probe but said his office would investigate, Mateo said.
"We're taking it very seriously, and we are looking for a just result,'' said Steven Reed, a spokesman for Johnson. "We're conducting a thorough investigation.''
Mateo added, "We basically were very satisfied with what the district attorney told us. He explained . . . he was not going to take the investigation that the Police Department generates."
The DA's probe came as authorities released a 911 call from the scene that night, in which a terrified customer tells the operator:
"They have the man inside. You need to send the police here . . . They are assaulting him. They have him inside at gunpoint.''
"Only one has a gun or both?" the operator asks.
"Both of them. They have the owner inside at gunpoint. You need to send the police quickly,'' the caller urges.
The caller, speaking in Spanish, starts out by saying, "Two guys are assaulting a bodega on 169 and Franklin."
"Do you know the number of the building?'' the operator asks.
"It's on 169,'' the caller responds.
"Do you know the name of the bodega?" the operator asks.
"It's on the corner,'' the caller replies.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has said Cuevas was shot as he fled the store and the officer's gun accidentally discharged when they collided.
But relatives claim video shows Cuevas was shot as he lay on the ground after running from the bodega and into Officer Ramysh Bangali, whose gun was drawn.
Mateo and Joel Cuevas, 26, the victim's brother, said the video shows the cop dragging Reynaldo.
Family lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, said they were grateful to the DA for meeting with them.
"It is not for the police commissioner to make a determination with regard to whether or not this wrongful death was accidental or was a result of a criminal act of this police officer," Rubenstein said.
While Ana Cuevas has claimed Kelly told her the cops were to blame for the shooting, a police source insisted the commissioner had called only to offer support.
"He never said the department was to blame. He only expressed his condolences," the source said.
Suspects Orlando Ramos, 31, Ernesto Delgado, 28, and Christopher Dorsey, 17, were charged with murder, robbery and weapons possession and were being held without bail. Bangali was put on administrative leave.
Additional reporting by Douglas Montero and Rebecca Harshbarger
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