A murder suspect apparently fearing that two police officers were waiting for him opened fire on a busy Brooklyn street yesterday, killing a retired detective and wounding three officers before shooting himself.
The two police officers had been investigating a minor traffic accident.
Pedestrians and motorists hastily sought cover as the shooting erupted at the corner of Bergen Street and Flatbush Avenue in the Park Slope section.
The police identified the slain gunman as William Ross Wakefield, 27 years old, who was being sought in the robbery last Thursday of the East New York Savings Bank during which the assistant manager was killed. He was also wanted in connection with 7 other bank robberies.
The accident that touched off the shooting spree involved a car driven by Raymond Gallo, a 50-year-old retired police detective.
A police car stopped to investigate and Mr. Gallo stood talking to Officer Lawrence Brom when Mr. Wakefield came up to them and opened fire with his .38. Mr. Gallo was hit in the chest and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Officer Brom is in critical but stable condition with chest wounds. Wakefield exchanged shots with Officer Fred Connors and the gunshots attracted other officers from the nearby precinct house and the battle raged back and forth across Flatbush.
Mr. Wakefield started running from the scene after he was wounded severely in the neck. He collapsed two blocks away in the doorway of a Spanish restaurant. Some police reports indicated that he had been wearing a stocking mask over his head when he opened fire.
Detective Vito Navarra said a warrant for Mr. Wakefield’s arrest had been signed just minutes before the shootings. They had been questioning family and friends.
“He knew we were looking for him and might have gotten a little jittery.”
“I looked out the window and saw this guy running and bleeding. He stopped at the corner. He was already doing zigzags. He crossed the street and went into a restaurant. Five or six detectives went in and took the guy out and threw him in a open wagon.”
He had at least three bullets in his body.
NYT Bird 12/21/77