A New York police officer who is part of a unit that works to get guns off the street was shot and killed Tuesday night in the lower back by a man the officer was following in the Bronx, police said.
The 31-year-old plainclothes officer was wearing a bulletproof vest but was hit once under his vest, Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said during a press conference early Wednesday morning at Jacobi Medical Center. The officer, a member of the Gun Violence Suppression Division, was in stable condition in the hospital.
The superintendent said the officer should survive but was in considerable pain.
Mr Shea said the violent encounter developed quickly. The officer was driving on Lafayette Avenue toward White Plains Road around 10:30 p.m. when he spotted a man he was trying to stop, Mr. Shea said. And “within minutes, within seconds, they were in a shootout,” he said.
The commissioner said the gunman fired four shots and the officer fired once during the confrontation.
The suspect, a 24-year-old man with multiple previous arrests in New York and New Jersey, has been taken into custody, according to police officers. A gun was recovered from under a car after the shooting, which took place in the Soundview section of the Bronx, authorities said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the officer, a six and a half year veteran of the New York City Police Department, in the hospital. “Everyone, we saw extraordinary courage tonight,” said de Blasio at the press conference early Wednesday. “It takes a very special person to go out into the streets at night and take a gun from a criminal.”
The mayor said many of the officer’s relatives served in the police department.
“He’s someone who goes out and puts his life on the line to protect other people in the most powerful way possible by depriving criminals of their firearms,” said de Blasio. “If you want an example of how hard the NYPD works, how dedicated our officers are, see it in the Bronx tonight.”
Police officers in riot gear searched the area near the Bruckner Expressway.
This is the third shooting of New York police officers in three months. In November, two officers sustained non-life threatening injuries when they were shot dead in Queens. The shooter was killed.
The following month, on Christmas Eve, a Brooklyn police officer was shot dead after responding to a domestic violence phone call. The officer was saved by the bulletproof vest he was wearing, officials said.
A relentless wave of crime has plagued New Yorkers since the pandemic hit New York. Across the city, shootouts in 2020 doubled year over year, increasing to 1,531. The number of murders rose 44 percent to 462, a trend that, according to police statistics, has shown little sign of slowing in recent weeks.
Police officers have attributed much of last year’s gun violence to a deadly combination of a thriving gun black market and escalating street feuds, made worse by the pandemic and associated economic decline.
Police officers say the department has struggled to contain gang feuds, partly because its resources have been strained by budget cuts and large-scale protests against police brutality last summer.
Patrick J. Lynch, longtime president of the city’s largest police union, said at the press conference that he was frustrated by the spate of police attacks.
“It seems like people go deaf when cops are shot,” Lynch said.
Rev. Oswald Denis, a Bronx pastor who has protested the rise in violence since the number of gun killings has increased since early last summer, said he rushed to the scene first and found dozens of armed officers in the area looking for clues. After overseeing the scene, which he described as “chaotic,” he went to the Jacobi Medical Center to pray for the wounded officer.
“As far as I know, he lost a lot of blood and by the grace of God he will survive,” he said. “I’m here. We are a huge family and we stand together, not only with the NYPD, but also with the victims. We are for victims against violence as a whole.”
Adam Farence contributed to the coverage.