Thursday, August 21, 2008

Customs Officer Indicted for Fatal June Shooting

Victim Shot in Chest at Forest Hills House

by Conor Greene

A U.S Customs agent has been indicted on manslaughter and homicide charges in connection with the shooting death of a man at the officer’s Forest Hills house two months ago.

Eric Alke, who works for the U.S Customs and Border Protection agency and is assigned to Kennedy Airport, was arraigned last Friday on a two-count indictment charging him with second-degree manslaughter and criminal negligent homicide in the shooting death of Adrian Moldovan, a 50-year-old real estate agent.

Alke was being held on $75,000 bail as of Wednesday morning. His attorney, Gerard Marrone, said he expected his client would be able to post bond later that afternoon.

Details of the incident have been sketchy since Moldovan was shot dead in June while helping Alke’s landlord build a patio at 72-07 Kessel Street, where the customs agent lives. Published reports initially stated that Alke told police that Moldovan grabbed the service weapon from the kitchen table and shot himself.

However, when police arrived at the scene following the 3:30 p.m. shooting on June 25, they found Moldovan’s body lying on the driveway. While both the district attorney and Marrone agree that Moldovan was shot with Alke’s .38-caliber Smith & Wesson service weapon, the two sides’ accounts of what happen differ greatly.

Marrone said that Alke arrived home from lunch and offered Moldovan, whom he was “friendly” with, a beer. The customs officer placed his gun, wallet and keys on a shelf inside the apartment and went to get the drink. At that point, he heard the gun go off and ran up the stairs to find Moldovan lying outside the front door.

"My client is adamant that he didn't shoot the gun and that he isn't guilty of anything," said Marrone. "That's a big distinction from what the district attorney's side of the story is, so it looks like there is going to wind up being a trial."

Marrone stressed that he isn’t saying that Moldovan committed suicide, and said that earlier reports that the two men were drinking together in the hours before the incident are incorrect.

There were no witnesses to the shooting, as the landlord was in the backyard at the time, according to Marrone. “My client, it’s my understanding, even called 911,” he said. “As soon as he saw him, he tried to do CPR. When I met him at the precinct, he had blood all over him, even on his face.”

However, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office apparently didn’t believe that version of events, instead charging that Alke “recklessly caused the death of Moldovan by discharging a shot from his .38 caliber revolver, striking Moldovan in the chest and causing his death.”

“As a federal officer trained in the safety and handling of weapons, the defendant should have known better than to draw a gun absent an imminent threat to the safety of himself or others,” said DA Brown. “Sadly, this case is a grim lesson why guns and drinking are a lethal mixture.”

Alke is due back in court on September 3. Marrone said he expects the district attorney’s office to release evidence including the autopsy report at that time. “Once I’m able to look at the reports and really ascertain what the people’s contention is, I can comment more,” he said.

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