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Police search for driver in Astoria faceoff with cops

K-9 officers assist in the search for the suspect. Photo by Ken Maldonado
TimesLedger Newspapers

A massive manhunt was underway for a Florida driver after two officers were injured trying to apprehend him during a wild chase in Astoria, police said.

Authorities believe 61-year-old Gary Sarback, of Lake Worth, Fla., was behind the wheel of a black Ford pickup truck with Florida plates spotted by officers near the corner of Broadway and Crescent Street in Astoria at about 8:50 p.m. Aug. 22.

The truck had been linked to an alleged robbery earlier in the day and was reported stolen from the Sunshine State days earlier, the NYPD said.

When two of the city’s Finest in an unmarked car attempted to pull Sarback over, he allegedly stepped on the gas instead, striking an officer in the process, the NYPD said.

The two officers each fired a round at the scene, and the NYPD was still investigating whether Sarback shot back, since a .38 caliber revolver was believed to be in the truck when it was taken, cops said.

Both officers were taken to Cornell Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries and then treated and released, police said. Police said one of the officers was struck by the pickup truck, but it was not clear why the other officer needed treatment.

Police were warning anyone who spotted Sarback to call 911 and avoid confronting him. He is believed to be armed and dangerous.

Ignacio Romero, a manager at the Trade Fair supermarket on the corner, said the police put the 24-hour store on lockdown after the incident.

The Floridian eventually ditched his truck farther south near the corner of 24th Street and 37th Avenue before disappearing, according to police, but left clues to his identify from a cellphone found in the area.

The nearby Queensboro Bridge was shut down on both sides for about 30 minutes to prevent any escape from Queens.

Rose Mary Marvilli, who lives near where the vehicle was found, said helicopters were scouring the residential and industrial area, which boasts lots of hidden backyards behind brick row houses.

“You saw searchlights,” she said. “It was so bright.”

Cops could not confirm a firearm was recovered in the vehicle, but officers suspected the driver might still have had the handgun.

At about 4:15 p.m. earlier in the day, a man matching Sarback’s description got out of the same black truck in Astoria near the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 79th Street and asked a woman for her pocketbook, police said.

The woman refused, but Sarback allegedly got a hold of it and tried to speed off, police said, although the woman chased him back to his truck and was dragged behind it for a short distance.

She sustained minor injuries, according to the NYPD.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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