SAVED BY AN ‘AN­GEL’

Cop pounced as gun­man was about to kill me, says Queens smoke shop clerk

New York Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRITTANY KRIEGSTEIN AND LEONARD GREENE

The off-duty cop who hero­ically sub­dued an en­raged home­less man af­ter he shot and killed a Queens smoke shop clerk is noth­ing short of an an­gel, the vic­tim’s co-worker said Thurs­day.

Store clerk He­nil Per­akh, 32, said he was just mil­lisec­onds away from suf­fer­ing his col­league’s fate Mon­day evening when quick-think­ing cop Ja­son Ma­haraj sprang into ac­tion and wres­tled a de­ter­mined, venge­ful gun­man to the ground.

Po­lice and wit­nesses said Steven Co­hen had just shot Mohmediyan Tar­wala at the store on Cross Bay Blvd. at Pitkin Ave. in Ozone Park and was turn­ing to fire on Per­akh when Ma­haraj thwarted his plan.

“Trust me, that guy was an an­gel for me,” Per­akh said of the cop. “He re­ally saved my life, first of all, be­cause if he wasn’t there, I’d be dead too.”

Per­akh said he was up­set about Tar­wala’s death, but knows the out­come could have been much worse.

“He was point­ing at me,” said Per­akh, who ducked down af­ter Tar­wala was shot. “He was try­ing to shoot me if I stood up. He was try­ing to come a lit­tle bit fur­ther to shoot me. But at that mo­ment, the cop, he just jumped on him.”

The caught-on-cam­era shoot­ing at 6:15 p.m. Mon­day was set in mo­tion when Tar­wala and his boss es­corted Co­hen out of the store.

Co­hen, who lives out of his blue Honda Odyssey parked nearby, was there to buy lot­tery tick­ets, said cops and a store worker.

He was act­ing dis­or­derly and was un­washed — he reeked, the cops and store work­ers said. Tar­wala, known to friends and co-work­ers as Iyan, asked Co­hen to wait out­side, and Co­hen was of­fended.

A few min­utes later, Co­hen re­turned with a gun, opened the door and be­gan fir­ing, Per­akh said.

“He kept shoot­ing,” Per­akh said. “I don’t know how long he would have shot at us.”

Video of the in­ci­dent shows Ma­haraj push­ing Co­hen out­side the store and tack­ling him to the ground. Per­akh ran out­side af­ter Co­hen and the off-duty of­fi­cer.

With Co­hen on the ground, Ma­haraj in­structed Per­akh to take Co­hen’s gun and stash it be­hind the store’s counter un­til re­in­force­ments ar­rived.

Per­akh did as he was asked — the video shows him run­ning back into the store with Co­hen’s gun.

Per­akh said the off-duty cop also called 911 from his own phone, hop­ing to get a quicker re­sponse.

Per­akh said he didn’t get to thank the heroic cop for his courage, and didn’t even know his name even though Ma­haraj is a reg­u­lar cus­tomer.

“That cop, he did his best job be­cause that guy could have killed him, too,” Per­akh said. “But he was so fast. He just jumped on him with­out think­ing any­thing of it.”

Per­akh said Co­hen started com­ing into the store af­ter the city went on lock­down and reg­u­larly stole small items like wa­ter and soda.

“But we never minded it be­cause it’s not worth it to fight just for a dol­lar’s worth of things,” Parakh said. “But we al­ways gave him a warn­ing.”

In re­cent weeks, Per­akh said, Co­hen be­came more un­hinged.

“He was do­ing crazy, crazy things,” the clerk said.

Per­akh said Tar­wala was en­rolled in a man­age­ment course in Man­hat­tan and work­ing hard to send money back to his fam­ily in In­dia. He said Tar­wala also had a fi­ancée in Canada, and was on the phone with her when Co­hen first walked in the store.

“I’ve never seen this guy fight with any­body,” Per­akh said of his slain col­league. “This is the first one and the last one of his life.”

Queens clerk He­nil Per­akh said he was an in­stant away from be­ing shot by gun­man Steve Co­hen when off-duty cop Ja­son Ma­haraj tack­led him (above). An­other worker was killed in the at­tack Mon­day.

Of­fi­cer Ja­son Ma­haraj stops gun­man iden­ti­fied as Steven Co­hen from killing a Queens smoke shop clerk who had just seen his co-worker Mohmediyan Tar­wala (in­set) be­ing shot to death. The gun (be­low) was re­cov­ered.

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