Suspect in 1999 shooting of NYPD officer arrested in Florida

Editor’s Note: The New York Police Department says confusion surrounding a long-awaited arrest led officials to wrongly declare that an off-duty officer had been killed in a 1999 shooting in the Bronx. The below copy has been updated.

NEW YORK — A man wanted in the 1999 shooting of an off-duty New York Police Department officer was arrested in Florida almost two decades after the incident, and the head of the NYPD on Sunday offered his thanks to fellow law enforcement for their perseverance.

Local television stations in Jacksonville, Florida, reported Lester Pearson, 43, was taken into custody Friday morning in connection to the shooting of officer Vincent Ling.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill tweeted his appreciation Sunday for Jacksonville police and U.S. marshals in the arrest.

“Law enforcement professionals demonstrate time & again that we are patient & that our collaborative forces have a very long reach,” he said.

It was not clear if Pearson had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf. Messages were sent to the Jacksonville prosecutors’ office, and an email was also sent to the Bronx District Attorney’s office.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said it had no information Sunday on the arrest. The U.S. Marshals Service did not return calls seeking comment.

The NYPD did not describe the circumstances of the shooting but, according to a New York Post account at the time, the December 1999 conflict in the Bronx started when the two men ran into each other on the street and an argument ensued. They were connected through the officer’s sister.

Ling, 27 years old at the time and an undercover officer, was shot in the chest and had a bullet between two vertebrae.

Pearson at that time had an extensive arrest record and one conviction.

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