An intensive manhunt was underway Thursday afternoon for a brazen gunman who shot an NYPD officer in a Lower East Side public housing complex, police said.
Officer Brian Groves, 30, was hit in his bulletproof vest and is expected to make a full recovery, authorities said.
Groves, a seven-year veteran of the force, and his partner were patrolling the public-housing area at around 3:15 a.m. when they opened the door to the 22nd-floor stairwell and saw the suspect with a silver revolver, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. One of the officers shouted, "Gun!" and both began chasing the armed man down several flights of stairs, Kelly said.
At some point, the man turned around and fired at the officers. The bullet struck Groves "at the heart" area of his bulletproof vest, Kelly said. Groves returned fire four times, but it's unclear if the man was hit. Groves, 30, was taken to the hospital in stable condition with a bruised chest.
"He would have been killed if not for his Kevlar vest," Kelly said.
Police detectives and federal marshals are looking for the suspect. He's described as a man in his 20s with a skinny build, who is about 5 feet 9 inches tall.
Several small groups of NYPD officers fanned out in the neighborhood with maps in their hands, looking for the weapon. Officers were spotted checking under parked cars, in FedEx and newspaper boxes and under coin-operated children's rides, among other places.
Residents in the building were told to clear out while police searched for the gunman. One woman described hearing what she thought were fireworks in the middle of the night. She later learned it was the sound of gunshots.
She and her family were told to leave their 22nd floor apartment at the Seward Park Housing Project. They saw the wounded officer in the lobby with his uniform shirt unbuttoned.
"It's fair to say, only pure luck and prayer has prevented this situation from becoming a tragedy," Mayor Bloomberg said. The vest, he said, "kept him alive and will allow him to see his little girls again."
Groves and his wife have two daughters, the youngest of whom is two weeks old. He is the ninth NYPD officer shot in the city this year. A $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to the shooter. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-COP-SHOT.
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