Undocumented migrant accused of shooting 2 NYPD officers had immigration case dismissed by judge last month, ICE says

An undocumented migrant accused of shooting two New York City police officers on Monday had his immigration case dismissed by a judge less than a month ago, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bernardo Raul Castro-Mata, a 19-year-old from Venezuela, opened fire on two officers after they tried to stop him for riding a scooter in the wrong direction in Queens, police said. The officers were treated and released from the hospital later the same day.

Castro-Mata entered the US illegally through Eagle Pass, Texas, last July, a spokesperson for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in New York confirmed to CNN. He was released and ordered to report to immigration court where his case was subsequently dismissed.

The US Border Patrol “released Castro-Mata on his own recognizance” and ordered him to report to the nearest enforcement and removal operations office, according to ICE. A Department of Justice immigration judge dismissed removal proceedings against Castro-Mata on May 6, the spokesperson said in a statement.

ICE did not provide information about why Castro-Mata’s case was dismissed.

Castro-Mata remains in custody following the shooting, and ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations has lodged an immigration detainer against him, according to the spokesperson.

Immigration detainers are typically issued against noncitizens who are arrested for criminal activity and taken into custody by state or local government.

The shooting comes as the number of undocumented migrants who have arrived in New York City since the spring of 2022 – when officials in some US border states began sending many of them north after they crossed from Mexico – surpassed 200,000, according to city officials.

More than 65,000 continue to be in the city’s care across more than 200 emergency shelters, according to the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, who has called on the federal government to do more to help cover the financial burden of the migrant crisis.

“You just gotta be honest about this and everyone wants to romanticize this issue and just act like, ‘Oh, it’s no big thing,’ ” Adams told reporters Tuesday, referring to the migrant surge. “No, no. This is a serious issue that this administration is attempting to resolve and we have to fix this issue.”

Castro-Mata was shot in the leg during an exchange of gunfire with police and he is expected to recover, according to Joe Kenny, the NYPD chief of detectives.

The shooting occurred Monday as the officers were addressing a pattern of robberies in Queens involving suspects on mopeds and scooters, said New York Police Commissioner Edward Caban.

Castro-Mata is an undocumented migrant living at a former hotel repurposed as a migrant shelter in Queens, Kenny said at a news conference Monday.

The Queens District Attorney’s Office said Monday Castro-Mata had not been arraigned and did not have a defense attorney. The office told CNN unless he hires his own attorney, he will be assigned one for his upcoming arraignment.

The officers on Monday encountered a man later identified as Castro-Mata driving a moped in the wrong direction down a street and tried to pull him over but the man ran away and the officers chased him on foot for several blocks, Caban said.

Castro-Mata opened fire on the police officers, who fired back, according to Caban.

One police officer was shot in the leg, while the other was shot in his bullet-resistant vest.

Castro-Mata has no prior arrests in New York City but is a suspect in several robberies in Queens, Kenny said at the news conference. He was operating an unregistered motorbike, Kenny said.

“Similar scooters and bikes are being used citywide to commit crimes. These crimes include shootings, robberies and phone snatches,” Kenny said.

Police have identified 80 “robbery patterns” across the city, encompassing hundreds of incidents in which perpetrators rode scooters or motorcycles, according to Kenny.

CNN’s Maria Sole Campinoti, Lauren Mascarenhas and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.

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