The gunman who shot an NYPD officer during a Bronx gunfight on Tuesday evening has died of his injuries.
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the incident began when the the officer exited their patrol car to confront a man on the sidewalk, before he began running away towards Claremont Parkway and Bathgate Avenue.
The cop, along with their partner, new anti-gun crime unit known as Neighborhood Safety Team, then engaged in a firefight with 25-year-old Rameek Smith after a short, two block chase that ended with the officer sustaining a gunshot wound to the left arm. Smith, meanwhile, was shot in the head.
The bloodied officer was quickly transported in an NYPD vehicle to Lincoln Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, while Smith was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital in critical condition, the top cop said. Smith later died of his injuries.
“Tonight, we are extremely fortunate that our officer is here at Lincoln Hospital recovering after being shot by a dangerous criminal who should not have been on the streets of the Bronx or anywhere else,” Commissioner Sewell said.
A 9mm handgun was recovered near the suspect, according to Sewell.
‘Who the hell will protect the innocent New Yorkers?’
A fired-up Mayor Eric Adams, in a press conference early Wednesday morning, said that the alleged perpetrator had a long rap-sheet of crimes under his belt.
“This is what we’re dealing with,” Hizzoner said. “A perpetrator with multiple arrests.”
According to Adams, the suspect’s most recent arrest came for criminal possession of a weapon, after he jumped over a subway turnstile without paying the fare while carrying a firearm in March 2020 which was proceeded by another incident in 2016.
“The firearm was found when he committed the crime of jumping the turnstile in our subway system,” Adams said. “Here’s the problem — for 20 months, he remained on the street.”
The mayor, a former NYPD cop who campaigned on a tough-on-crime mantra, said that the suspect pleaded guilty to his gun charge a year later, but he was free while waiting to be sentenced.
“The sentencing was pushed off for 5 months. And then, it was pushed off again,” the mayor said.
Hizzoner spoke about the suspect’s previous arrest, and highlighted that it came as a result of a police stop for fare evasion.
“Why am I cracking down on fare evasions? That’s why,” he said “People want to ask why I am pushing for reform? That’s why.”
Adams also took aim at advocates who have pushed for reform in the criminal justice system, saying he was “tired” of the focus on police misdeeds, while not enough attention has been paid to ridding the city of crime.
“It is time for us to stop spending our energy protecting people who are committing crimes and violence. This person has an extensive arrest history. He has made up his mind: He was not going to stop until he took the life of an innocent person,” the mayor said. “I am tired of the complaints about officers who are doing their jobs….Who the hell will protect the innocent New Yorkers in this city?”
Citywide, there had been 421 shootings, resulting in 495 victims of gun violence in the Five Boroughs between Jan. 1 and May 8, when the most recent data is available. The Bronx accounted for 143 of those shootings, and 168 victims.
The Legal Aid Society, which represented Smith, harshly denounced Adams’ comments in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“Mayor Adams and the New York City Police Department’s baseless claims that this case involves bail reform is patently incorrect and exposes the Administration’s continued refusal to comprehend the scope and benefits of these reforms. If anything, Mr. Smith’s case underscores the need for early intervention, access to services and community-based support,” part of the statement read.
According to the Legal Aid Society, Smith had been released from the New York City Department of Correction for a non-violent felony in March 2020 and was accepted into Mental Health Court.
The team of attorneys insisted that Smith was not just another statistic, but “a father and a son” struggling to address his personal issues.
“Lastly, we caution New Yorkers on crediting the Mayor’s unconscionable fear-mongering about last night’s killing,” the statement added. “In the end, a young man, struggling with multiple ailments, had his life cut short, and the public should not lose sight of that regardless of incendiary comments from City Hall.”