West Village residents and bystanders try to grasp deadly shootout

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By Ivan Pereira

West Village residents, store owners and visitors were shocked to see a normally calm block turned into a hectic crime Monday.

Even though many of the neighborhood locals, like Stephonik Youth, were not in the vicinity when law enforcement officials traded fire with fugitive Charles Mozdir inside Smoking Culture at 177 West 4th Street, they were still shaken up.

“It’s a strange feeling coming back to the hood and having the anxiety popping,” said Youth, as she returned to her home a block from the crime scene.

For most of the afternoon, people gazed from behind police tape and tried to piece together what was the commotion, since very few people said they heard gunshots.

Neighbors said up until Monday, they felt that they lived in a relatively safe environment. Caroline Alvo, 28, who lives near the crime scene, called it the “most calmest street ever.”

“Instinctively I assumed [President] Obama was in town or something because the street was blocked off there were all these cameras. I was like “what is going on?!'” she said.

Judy Hoffman who works at Greenwich House Pottery just down the street from the shooting saw the crowds as stepped out of the West 4th St. subway station.

“There were tons of police trucks, so much going on,” she said a few hours after the shooting while having pizza on a stoop just feet from the still blocked-off area. “It’s just such a tiny little street, I got off the subway and was like ‘what is going on here?'”

An 85-year-old man who only wanted to be identified as Leo and has lived in the area for 36 years, said he heard the gun shots from his fifth-floor window but didn’t know exactly what was going on until the sirens went off.

“I thought it was Fourth of July firecrackers,” he said. “I thought it was a funny time to have fireworks.”

Investigators said Mozdir, who was on the lam for two years, drastically changed his appearance and was living in New York unnoticed. Even though CNN profiled the fugitive on its show ” The Hunt with John Walsh” during Sunday’s episode, and police say he was working at the smoke shop, several nearby store workers and neighbors said they never saw him around or recognized him.

“That’s scary stuff. And he was just around the corner? Oh my God,” said an employee of a nearby video game store who asked not to be named.

The area surrounding the crime scene calmed down considerably by the evening. While police barriers remained between Jones and Barrow streets, business had returned more or less to usual. (with Zoe Lake and Noelani Montero)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 at 6:42 pm and is filed under amNewYork, Breaking News, Crime, Print Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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