The vigilante arrested for opening fire during a robbery attempt in a Manhattan subway station yelled “Get away from her!” at the would-be mugger — just before he pulled a pistol from his backpack and sent a couple rounds flying down the platform, sources said Thursday.
Cops found John Rote, 43, of Astoria, Queens, sitting at his work desk at about 2 p.m. Wednesday at Panavision, a company on Varick Street that rents camera and filmmaking equipment, law-enforcement sources told The Post.
Officers collared him without a struggle and brought him back to the precinct, where Rote allegedly admitted that he pulled the trigger, then tossed the gun in the East River, the sources said.
Witnesses and police said the alleged mugger — Matthew Roesch, a homeless 49-year-old — held the emergency gate open for his 40-year-old victim at the 49th Street station near Times Square at about 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday, then demanded money from her.
“If you don’t give me a dollar, I’m going to take your purse,” Roesch said, according to police.
Cops said Rote warned the panhandler to leave the woman alone — and witnesses told officers that he then whipped out a gun and yelled “Get away from her!,” sources said.
Rote – who has no criminal history and has never been described as in need of mental help – was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, reckless endangerment and menacing for the caught-on-camera shooting, the NYPD said.
He was awaiting arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court Thursday.
In footage obtained by The Post, Rote allegedly walks down the platform when he seems to see something in the distance.
He immediately stops right in front of the turnstiles, puts his olive-green backpack down and starts fumbling through it.
Seconds later, he emerges with what looks like a snub-nose revolver, points it and casually squeezes off a round, the video showed.
He then starts yelling at Roesch, and inches closer before letting another round fly, the video showed.
No one was hit by the errant bullets.
Law enforcement sources said they don’t think Rote was aiming at the vagrant.
Police searched for Rote for about a day-and-a-half before an anonymous tipster recognized him from the stills of surveillance footage released by the NYPD and called the cops, sources said.
Transit officials slammed the vigilante justice in a statement announcing Rote’s arrest.
“I want to be clear: We don’t tolerate this kind of conduct in NYC Transit, period,” city Transit President Richard Davey said.
“Once again cameras recorded a perpetrator, and we are grateful the NYPD made an arrest within hours. Thank goodness nobody was hurt here — but what occurred was outrageous, reckless, and unacceptable.”
Roesch — who officials said is “known to police” — was arrested within minutes of the shooting, but the gunman was able to slip away.
He was charged with attempted robbery for trying to forcibly snatch the woman’s belongings at the 49th Street N, R and W station in Midtown.
Roesch was freed on supervised release following his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court Thursday.
His next court date is Dec. 20.
Additional reporting by Kyle Schnitzer
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