2-Year Search for Fugitive Ends in a Hail of Gunfire

PHOTO: A police officer stands near the scene of a shooting at a New York City cigar shop, July 28, 2014.
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Charles Mozdir disappeared.

The then-California resident was charged with child sexual assault in 2012, accused of molesting a young boy he was babysitting, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney said. Mozdir was friends with the boy’s parents, according to authorities. He had photographed their wedding.

The parents reported Mozdir to authorities, but Mozdir, 32, never showed up for his arraignment. A $1 million bail warrant was issued.

Mozdir moved away. He grew long hair and a beard. He went by the alias “John,” and used the fake name to get a job at a New York City smoke shop, a law enforcement official briefed on the case told ABC News.

“He was using an alias. But it’s not like they did some real background check or anything at the smoke shop,” the official said.

PHOTO: Charles Mozdir, 32, seen here in an undated photo, was killed in a shootout in New York City, July 28, 2014.
City of Coronado Police Department/AP Photo
PHOTO: Charles Mozdir, 32, seen here in an undated photo, was killed in a shootout in New York City, July 28, 2014.

Mozdir began a new life, avoiding prosecution, avoiding capture. Authorities spent two years searching – California. Georgia. Mexico. Nothing.

But then his story was featured on CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh,” a program about fugitives hosted by the “America’s Most Wanted” founder – first on July 20, and then again July 27. Mozdir’s pet dog was mentioned in the broadcast.

The tips poured in, including from a female friend who gave authorities Mozdir's cell phone number, ABC News has learned. Authorities used the phone to track Mozdir, finding him working at the Smoke Culture cigar shop in New York City’s West Village neighborhood, a shop located in a tourist area bounded by jazz clubs, restaurants, a subway station and a basketball court.

PHOTO: This handout photo shows the gun fired by Charles Mozdir, 32, killed in a shooting at the Smoke Culture cigar shop in New York City, July 28, 2014.
DCPI
PHOTO: This handout photo shows the gun fired by Charles Mozdir, 32, killed in a shooting at the Smoke Culture cigar shop in New York City, July 28, 2014.

United States Marshals and an NYPD detective visited there after 1 p.m. Monday. The detective went in first by himself to positively identify Mozdir.

“That’s him. That’s the guy. He looks different, but that’s the guy,” he told the others, according to the law enforcement official.

The detective returned to the shop, this time followed by four marshals walking in two-by-two. Behind them was a marshal supervisor. The group entered cinematically with their vests on, identifying themselves as law enforcement.

PHOTO: Three law enforcement officials were injured in a New York City shooting, July 28, 2014, authorities said.
WABC
PHOTO: Three law enforcement officials were injured in a New York City shooting, July 28, 2014, authorities said.

Shots rang out in the smoke shop, authorities said, with Mozdir firing his .32-caliber revolver. The detective was shot twice – once in the chest area, with one slug lodged in his vest, and the second in his stomach just below the vest, authorities said. He underwent surgery. Two of the marshals each took one shot. The detective and marshals are expected to survive.

Mozdir appeared to be shot “at least six times,” although possibly more, the official said. Mozdir died from his injuries.

Mozdir was carrying 20 bullets in his pocket, authorities said.

PHOTO: An ambulance sits near the scene of a fatal shooting involving a fugitive in New York City, July 28, 2014.
WABC
PHOTO: An ambulance sits near the scene of a fatal shooting involving a fugitive in New York City, July 28, 2014.

Ballistics experts will deconstruct the shooting, and authorities plan to search the store and Mozdir’s residence for additional information.

Walsh, appearing on Monday’s episode of “Anderson Cooper 360,” said he remains stunned that fugitives hide in plain sight – in Mozdir’s case, the middle of Manhattan.

“The biggest thing, what a relief for the family. Not only for their incredible courage to go forward and press charges against him, but when he ran, when he jumped his bond, his roommate had said that [Mozdir] told him many times he was gonna come back and kill the father for going to the police,” Walsh said.

“It’s a tough ending, but for the family it’s a good ending.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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