Bullets and bombs: Retired cop who stopped terror plot talks about Brussels and his own son’s shooting

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NEW YORK -- Retired NYPD Bomb Squad detective, Paul Yurkiw, had a special interest in the nail bomb discovered in the Brussels home used by suicide-bombing brothers, Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui.

Back on July 31, 1997, he had found four pipe bombs—with dozens of nails duct taped to them—in a Sunset Park apartment rented by two, Palestinian-born men.

The men had traveled to North Carolina to buy the components for the explosives.

The devices were meant to be detonated at the busy Atlantic Avenue subway station in Brooklyn.

“There were four pipe bombs in a backpack,” Yurkiw recalled this week. “Wired, ready to go.”

The only thing that stopped the plot from going forward was a new roommate who was living in the apartment. He ran to a local police station and told law enforcement about the terror plans.

Emergency Service police quickly got to the apartment and shot the suspects, when they tried to detonate one of the devices.
Yurkiw was summoned to dismantle the bombs, wearing a protective suit.

“The external wires and the energy source were removed from the device, so we were able to transport the pipes from the location where they were made to a safe place,” Yurkiw remembered.

Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer and Lafi Khalil were both convicted in the plot.

Yurkiw had survived a shooting on the Van Wyck Expressway in 1989—thanks to his bulletproof vest—and he transferred to the Bomb Squad several years later.

Nearly 27 years later, Yurkiw would re-live that trauma, when his son, Andrew, was shot by a suspect firing a .357 magnum.

Andrew Yurkiw, 29—who works with the 81 Precinct Anti-Crime unit--was trying to stop ex-con, Jamal Funes—who had fired on Housing Officers.

Yurkiw’s 20-layer Kevlar police vest stopped the full impact of a powerful bullet.

One of his partners, William Redden, was hit in the hip with a bullet during the gun battle.

“When I got the phone call at 3:30 or quarter to 4 in the morning,” Yurkiw told PIX 11, “it was almost unbelievable.” Choking up, the father recalled “Thirty minutes, forty five minutes later—to see him in the hospital—was one of my happiest times.”

Yurkiw said his son had a large bruise on his chest, and a tear to his skin, but the bullet had not penetrated his body.

“He survived, he did a good job, he did what he was trained to do,” the senior Yurkiw said with emotion in his voice. “Same thing with William and his team.”

Yurkiw told PIX11 his son wants to return to the job.

“He’s looking to go back as soon as he can. It’s a process. It takes time to figure all this stuff out and put one foot in front of the other and get back to business. “