Man accused of shooting NYPD officers charged, claims guns are being smuggled into NYC migrant shelters

The suspect who shot two NYPD officers during a traffic stop in New York City was arraigned on two counts of attempted murder Wednesday morning and is claiming that Venezuelan gangs are smuggling firearms into migrant shelters in the city. 

Police say the suspect, identified as Bernardo Raul Castro-Mata, is a 19-year-old Venezuelan migrant who entered the country in 2023. 

Authorities say that he spoke at length with investigators and that Mata revealed to police that he was a member of the notorious Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua.

Mata told police that he worked for Doordash and received the gun he used to shoot the officers from a friend. 

According to audio recordings read by prosecutors, Mata claims he was recruited by a cousin to join the gang to do robberies, and also claimed that the gang had been smuggling guns into city-run shelters. 

"Tren de Aragua members are smuggling firearms into city shelter inside food delivery packages, that way they don't have to go through metal detectors," Mata allegedly said.

RELATED: Two NYPD officers shot in NYC; suspect in custody

Law enforcement officials say that on June 3, two NYPD officers attempted to pull Mata over for driving an unregistered scooter the wrong way on a one-way street in East Elmhurst.

As police tried to pull him over, Mata ran off. Police chased him and when they caught up with him, he resisted arrest.

Mata allegedly fired at both officers, shooting them. According to police, Richard Yarusso, 26, was hit in his bulletproof vest. Christopher Abreu, 26, was shot in the leg. 

Both officers were treated at Elmhurst Hospital and released.

In court on Wednesday, Queens Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reilly said that Mata also told police that shooting at police officers is what they do in his home country. 

"It's common practice for Tren de Aragua gang members to shoot at police officers because Venezuelan police officers shoot at gang members for minor infractions. Venezuelan police officers get shot often in my home country because criminals feel there is a chance of getting away," Mata allegedly told police. 

"This dangerous individual wasn't afraid to shoot a New York City police officer because he thought he was going to get away with it," said Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York President Patrick Hendry at a press conference after the arraignment. "Not in this country."

According to police, within the past year, there's been an increase of over 300% in robberies and grand larcenies.

Mata pleaded not guilty to all charges. In exchange for his revelations about the gang, his attorney asked the judge to keep him in protective custody, which was granted.

Doordash told FOX 5 NY that they had no record of anyone by that name forking for them. 

If convicted, he will face up to 40 years in prison.

Castro-Mata is due back in court on Sept. 16.