April 4, 2023 By Bill Parry
Attorney General Letitia James announced on April 4 that she will not bring charges against an off-duty city cop who shot and killed 20-year-old Raymierik Lopez in 2021 outside the LaBoom nightclub in Woodside.
James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) released its report of its investigation into the shooting that occurred in the early morning of Dec. 16, 2021.
According to the investigation, off-duty NYPD Lieutenant Nathan Yabukov — who was 44 years old at the time of the shooting and a 15-year veteran of the NYPD assigned to the 71st Precinct in Crown Heights, Brooklyn — was leaving the club on Northern Boulevard near 57th Street at around 3 a.m. and was sitting in the front seat of his Jaguar SUV waiting for a friend. Yabukov had his driver’s side door open within the parking lot of a Honda dealership across the intersection from the nightclub.
Another car pulled up next to Yabukov and Lopez and two other men in ski masks got out and approached Yabukov, according to the investigation. The assailants lunged at him and grabbed the gold chains he was wearing around his neck in an apparent robbery attempt. They exchanged gunfire and retreated. Lopez was shot in the chest and stomach and died at the scene as his accomplices fled the crime scene.
Police from the 108th Precinct in Long Island City responded to a 911 call of a shooting and found Yabukov lying in the parking lot bleeding from gunshot wounds to his body. EMS rushed him to Elmhurst Hospital Center. Officers found Lopez a half block west lying on a sidewalk next to a firearm. EMS transported him to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Detectives recovered two firearms including Yabukov’s service weapon. The two individuals who were with Lopez were apprehended within days of the shooting and are being prosecuted by the Queens district attorney’s office.
After a thorough investigation by the AG’s Department of Investigation, which included a review of security camera footage, witness interviews and crime scene analysis, OSI determined that just could not be disproved beyond a reasonable doubt at trial and thus criminal charges against the off-duty officer “were not warranted in this matter.”
Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another. To convict a person of a crime when the defense of justification is raised at trial, the prosecution must disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt. DOI interviewed Yabukov, who told them he “feared for his life” and believed he was going to be killed for his gold chains.
In this case, DOI determined that Yabukov was the victim of a robbery in progress and reasonably believed that his life was in danger. Under these circumstances, given the law and the evidence, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that Yabukov was justified in his use of force, and OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued against him in this case.