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Handcuff delay in cop shooting

January 15, 2003

A convicted car thief, fatally shot when an officer broke his car window with the butt of a gun earlier this month, was locked in his handcuffs during a resuscitation attempt because the arresting officer misplaced his handcuff key, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said yesterday.

In response to a reporter's question, Kelly said that the delay in obtaining the key took only a few minutes and that the dead man, John Lagatutta, was originally believed to have died at the scene.

Kelly said Lagatutta, who police maintain was shot accidentally by the officer in the upper back while in a stolen car in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, fled and crashed the car into a Federal Express truck, where he was arrested.

Kelly said the officer, who has not been identified, pulled Lagatutta from the car onto the sidewalk and handcuffed him. The officer, who Kelly said was an emergency medical technician, then rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital.

Kelly said during the trip to Victory Memorial Hospital, Lagatutta appeared to go into cardiac arrest but that no one realized he had been shot.

When they reached the hospital and the officer tried to remove his cuffs to insert an intravenous line into Lagatutta's arm, he realized he had left his handcuff key in his patrol car. An ambulance took him to his car where he obtained the key and returned him to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the intravenous line was placed into Lagatutta's neck, Kelly said.

"These are the facts as we know them," he added.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.