New York

Man Who Allegedly Punched Off-Duty NYPD Officer in Face, Stole Gun Arrested in Philadelphia: Sources

The 21-year-old man suspected of punching an off-duty NYPD officer in the face and stealing her gun as she headed to work in the Bronx earlier this week has been arrested in Philadelphia, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York.

The suspect, identified Wednesday as Samuel Thornton, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals, the Regional Fugitive Task Force and local police. Authorities traveled to Philadelphia after getting a tip Thornton was there and arrested him on the street, the sources said.

The gun he allegedly stole from the officer was recovered, the law enforcement sources said. It wasn't clear when Thornton would return to New York to face charges, nor was it known if he had an attorney.

"God is good. Tonight we can sleep," said neighbor Beryl Green, who lives in the building where the NYPD officer was attacked. 

Cynthia McFarlane was relieved when she learned of the arrest. 

"I'm a little bit surprised that he got to Philadelphia so fast," she said. 

The 41-year-old officer was headed to her precinct at about 5:20 a.m. Wednesday when the suspect approached her inside a basement parking garage in her building on Bronx Boulevard and East 226th Street in Wakefield, according to the NYPD.

The suspect snatched the officer's gold chain from around her neck and demanded her wallet. The officer reached into her bag, but the suspect grabbed her purse and punched her in the face, causing her to fall to the ground, authorities said.

The purse also fell to the ground during the confrontation, but the suspect was able to get the woman's gun. He ran away after the mugging, police say.

The officer, who wasn’t in uniform at the time, was treated at a hospital for abrasions and a facial contusion. 

"I'm glad they caught him. I'm very glad," said landlord and superintendent Robert Rodriguez, who said he saw the suspect loitering in the garage last week and chased him away. 

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