Cop takes bullet to chest, gunman shot dead in Harlem

Police Commissioner James O'Neill holds up the injured officer's bulletproof vest, and points to where a bullet had struck it, on Oct. 23. (Photo via Twitter/@NYPDNews)

One of New York’s Finest survived a brush with death in Harlem Wednesday morning after being shot in the chest during a violent struggle with a naked, gun-toting man who was gunned down by other officers.

The injured officer, a 34-year-old member of the 32nd Precinct, was apparently saved by his bulletproof vest, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said during a press conference at St. Luke’s Medical Center. The officer was hospitalized in stable condition.

The suspect, a 29-year-old man, was hit multiple times and died later at Harlem Hospital. Due to the preliminary nature of the investigation, O’Neill declined to state where the perpetrator had been hit, or if he had fired his weapon at police.

“It’s all part of the investigation,” the commissioner said.

O’Neill said the violence broke out at 1:51 a.m. on Oct. 23 as officers responded to a reported dispute between neighbors at 2581 Frederick Douglas Blvd. 

This is the type of call NYPD cops respond to thousands of times a year,” the commissioner remarked. “But today, we were reminded – again – that no call is ever routine.”

According to law enforcement sources, the officers were responding to a report of a man harassing his next-door neighbor, banging on the doors and breaking glass. 

NYPD members fanned out on the second floor of the building, and the 34-year-old officer came across the 29-year-old male suspect in the hallway. O’Neill said the perpetrator was stark naked, and pointing a 9mm semi-automatic handgun at the cop.

“A violent struggle immediately began, and shots were fired,” O’Neill said. “The officer yelled for help as the struggle continued, and the other officers discharged their firearms, striking the suspect several times.”

The 34-year-old officer was found to have been shot in the chest, but the bullet “did not penetrate” his kevlar vest, O’Neill reported. The officer did have facial injuries after the suspect had repeatedly punched him during the struggle, cops said.

The circle shows where a bullet struck a 32nd Precinct officer’s kevlar vest during an armed struggle with a suspect in Harlem on Oct. 23.

Paramedics rushed the suspect to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. O’Neill said the perpetrator “had previous interactions with the police.” O’Neill said most of those interactions were related to domestic violence.

The weapon the suspect allegedly used during Wednesday’s encounter was recovered at the scene.

The weapon the suspect allegedly brandished (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

The NYPD Force Investigation Squad is investigating the case.

Both O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the injured officer and his wife, who also is an NYPD officer, at St. Luke’s Hospital. 

“Thank God our officer is safe,” de Blasio said at the press conference. “I visited with him in his room at the hospital, he’s in good spirits. … The good news is, he’s coming through okay. He’s shaken up, but he will be okay.” 

It’s the fourth police-involved shooting in New York City over the last two weeks. On Oct. 15, cops shot and killed a man during an exchange of bullets at a public housing complex in Brooklyn; early the next morning, Oct. 16, a gun-toting man was shot and injured by police after he allegedly fired shots at a Bronx subway station.

Then, on Oct. 17, Bronx police officers shot and killed a man who fought with them and attempted to flee during a traffic stop.

Robert Pozarycki