NEW YORK >> Federal authorities announced today that they had arrested an alleged member of the Crips street gang on charges of shooting an FBI agent over the weekend as he staked out a house in the Canarsie neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The suspect, Ronell Watson, was taken into custody Saturday, not long after the unnamed agent was shot in the shoulder during an exchange of gunfire around 3:30 that afternoon near East 92nd Street and Avenue N.
Watson, 31, pleaded not guilty today to attempted murder charges in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. His girlfriend, Molissa Gangapersad, 30, was also arrested on charges she lied to federal agents who were investigating the shooting. She also pleaded not guilty.
The incident began Saturday when the FBI agent was parked in an unmarked car on Canarsie Road conducting surveillance as part of an undisclosed investigation, according to court papers filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.
Driving the wrong way down the one-way street, Watson pulled his own car, a BMW, in front of the agent’s car, partly blocking him in, the papers said. Then, Watson got out of his car and approached the agent with one hand hidden in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint.
As the agent tried to maneuver around him, Watson pulled out a gun and opened fire, striking the agent once in his torso as he drove away, court papers said.
Though wounded, the agent managed to climb out of his car and fire back, hitting Watson at least once in his left hand, prosecutors said. Watson then fled in his car, abandoned it in a nearby auto body shop and sought treatment for his wound at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. Prosecutors said he lied to doctors, telling them he had merely been a bystander to the shootout and was injured in the crossfire.
But law enforcement officers at the hospital later overheard Watson calling Gangapersad and telling her to go to their home, “get the jewelry and get rid of it,” court papers said.
When investigators interviewed Gangapersad that night, she initially lied about witnessing the shootout, court papers said. But she eventually confessed to having seen it, after the investigators confronted her with surveillance video that showed her on the front porch of the house with a clear view of the gunfight.
When investigators searched the house, they found more than a pound of marijuana, $15,000 in cash and “large amounts of jewelry,” court papers said.
In an unusual move, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Richard P. Donoghue, personally appeared in court at Watson’s arraignment, telling Magistrate Judge Steven L. Tiscione that the defendant was a “gun-wielding, drug-dealing gang member.” Donoghue added that the attack was caught by multiple videos, including one that showed Watson “aggressively shooting at the agent.”
Watson was ordered held without bail. Gangapersad was released on a $500,000 bond.
Michelle Gelernt, Watson’s lawyer, had no comment on the charges he is facing, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Gary Schorr, Gangapersad’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.
The agent remained hospitalized today, but his wound was not life-threatening, law enforcement officials said.