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NEW YORK -- A retired New York Police Department sergeant questioned about the killing of his boss - a mob-connected jeweler - was himself shot dead early yesterday by two officers after he fired at them in front of his Staten Island home, police said.
The altercation outside the house nearly ended quietly after a sergeant grabbed Jason Aiello's gun and started to frisk and handcuff him.
But police said Aiello broke free and with a second gun he had on him fired twice at the sergeant and an officer.
The two officers weren't hit, and they took cover.
"Jason, put down the gun!" the sergeant was heard yelling over his radio, police said. "Jason, put down the gun!"
But police said Aiello, 36, opened fire at least five more times as he got into his cousin's Lincoln SUV across the street. The cops fired 19 times, felling Aiello with three bullets.
The shooting, which police said appeared to be within departmental guidelines, occurred against a most unusual backdrop: Aiello worked as a bodyguard for Louis Antonelli, 43, a jeweler who had been gunned down in West Brighton, Staten Island, in April in what investigators said was a mob hit.
Two men have been charged with the slaying of Antonelli - who the FBI says was an associate of the Genovese crime family - but Aiello's possible role in the killing has also been called into question.
Aiello wasn't armed April 29, as he normally would have been, and remained inside the El Sabor Tropical Restaurant when Antonelli left and was ambushed.
Aiello had been with the NYPD for 12 years and retired in 2006 with a knee injury.
On Monday night, his family took him to the psychiatric ward at Bayley Seton Hospital on Staten Island because he was delusional and depressed, said his lawyer, Peter Antioco, of Jamaica, Queens.
Aiello left about 6:30 a.m. yesterday and the hospital called 911, aware that he had been a police officer and had guns.
Antioco and Aiello's family said the hospital was at fault for allowing Aiello to leave. The hospital denied the accusation, saying Aiello was in a locked waiting area and pushed his way out.
A short time later, his mother and a neighbor called 911 because Aiello had returned to his Rosebank home, and was trying to force his family to go to another home in the Poconos, police said.
Rachael Aiello managed to hide the keys to the family's Toyota minivan and said she tossed Aiello's gun from the Lincoln.
She said she threw it from the SUV as police were firing, however officials say the gun was thrown from the vehicle after the firing stopped.
Doug Miglino, Aiello's cousin, said Rachael Aiello screamed at the officers to stop firing while taking cover in the SUV during the shooting. She was unharmed.
The couple's three children - a boy, 7, and two girls, 5 and 3 - were in the family's minivan across the street from the house, but were not harmed.
Aiello's Bible - he had recently been talking about the afterlife and thought he was the "chosen one," according to police and neighbors - was found nearby.
"Jason wouldn't hurt a fly," Miglino said.
But Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the officers had little choice.
"The officers clearly were in danger of being killed themselves and took appropriate action," he said.
Daniel Edward Rosen contributed to this story.