An off-duty NYPD lieutenant who was shot multiple times in a confrontation with armed robbers in ski masks who cornered him as he left a Queens nightclub early Thursday was hospitalized in critical but "thankfully stable" condition, the police commissioner said at a somber news conference hours after the gunfire.
One of the suspects was killed, while the others fled, possibly in a vehicle. The dead suspect has been identified as a man with one prior arrest in New York City last year for gang assault but police are withholding his name at this time, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. Shea added he may have other arrests elsewhere.
According to Shea, the suspect was one of a number of men, all armed, all wearing ski masks, who approached the lieutenant as he walked to his vehicle near 57th Street and Northern Boulevard in Woodside shortly after 3 a.m.
Moments later, there was an exchange of gunfire. The lieutenant, who had wrapped up his NYPD shift just before midnight and then went to the club, was carrying his service weapon and returned fire. A total of 17 shots were fired, Shea said. Eight were believed to have come from the officer's gun, while another nine were thought to have been shot by the others. It's not clear how many suspects fired weapons.
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According to Shea, at least two bullets hit the suspect, one in the chest and one in the stomach. He was pronounced dead at a hospital less than 20 minutes after EMTs responded to the call and found him and the officer lying on the pavement.
A semiautomatic handgun with an extended magazine was recovered near him.
The officer had also been shot multiple times, though the commissioner didn't elaborate on the location of his wounds. Law enforcement sources had told News 4 the lieutenant was grazed in the head and shot in the chest, wrist and leg.
Speaking from the hospital where the lieutenant was being treated, Shea said he was "lucky to be alive" and there would've been a "very different outcome if not for the FDNY paramedics who did incredible work on the street to get him here."
Lieutenants Benevolent Association President Lou Turco echoed Shea's comments and issued an impassioned plea to change the narrative on guns in the city.
"He had minutes to live. We say it all the time -- we got lucky tonight. When is this luck going to run out? We gotta stop with the luck stuff," Turco said. "We have to get the individuals carrying the guns off the street. It's not just the gun. If you just get the gun and not the individual he goes and gets another gun. We’re missing it."
Police suspect the armed men wanted to steal the lieutenant's jewelry and are looking into whether this case may be linked to a citywide pattern. Shea says the case does fit the pattern but stressed the information is preliminary at this point.
The lieutenant's name has not been released.
Authorities were at the scene through the morning canvassing the area for surveillance and looking for witnesses in the case.
Clarissa Ramos says there was an artist performing at the club, La Boom, and the venue was shut down amid the chaos.
"I didn't hear the shots or nothing but they escorted the celebrity out the back and they just told us that we had to leave, that something was going on," Ramos said.
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information to help cops arrest the suspects. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.