Man, 24, Accused of Shooting NYPD Cop in Back Said ‘I Didn't Know They Were Cops:' Official

The suspect allegedly told detectives, "I didn't know they were cops," as it relates to Tuesday night's shooting and said he had been carrying the gun for protection after a friend was recently shot, a senior official said

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A 24-year-old man known previously to police has been charged with various crimes, including attempted murder of a police officer and felony assault, in the late-night Tuesday shooting of an NYPD officer in the Bronx, officials said.

Ajani Jones, who has three previous arrests for nonviolent crimes, including most recently in 2020 for possessing a fake temporary tag in Manhattan, was charged in the shooting of officer Daniel Vargas early Wednesday, officials told News 4.

A senior NYPD official with direct knowledge of the investigation told News 4 Jones told detectives he was carrying the gun, which sources said was stolen, to protect himself after a friend was recently shot. Jones allegedly told those detectives, "I didn't know they were cops" as it related to the shooting Tuesday night near White Plains Road and Lafayette Avenue in Soundview.

Jones allegedly fired at least four shots, wounding Vargas, who was in plainclothes at the time and wearing a protective vest, in the back. At least one shot was returned by police during a chase, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. The suspect was identified by the officer assigned to the gun violence suppression division who attempted to stop him.

Vargas was taken to a hospital in stable condition after the shooting and is expected to be OK. He is expected to be released from the hospital around 11 a.m. Thursday. At a news conference at the hospital late Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the 31-year-old injured officer spends his time getting guns off the street to save lives. The officer is a six-year veteran of the force, Shea said.

"It's amazing the officer shot is expected to make a full recover," the police commissioner said in a separate briefing on the state of the NYPD Wednesday.

The head of the detectives' union, Paul DiGiacomo, said in a statement earlier in the day that the officer's shooting should be a "wake-up call" for elected officials as far as providing additional support to the force.

“A cop shot and injured last night in the Bronx as he and fellow officers searched for armed criminals should be the wake-up call our elected officials need to start backing the police," DiGiacomo said. "Our men and women in blue put it all on the line for every New Yorker. They need support! We’re thankful our @NYCPBA brother will recover from his serious injuries. Our prayers are with him."

In addition to the attempted cop murder and felony assault charge in Vargas' case, Jones is accused of criminal possession of a weapon and stolen property.

The senior NYPD official who told News 4 about Jones' initial comments to detectives said of the 24-year-old, "He isn't one of our most problematic individuals in society."

Apart from the 2020 arrest for possessing a fake temporary tag, Jones' other two bookings include another 2020 arrest in New Jersey for allegedly receiving stolen property and a 2019 arrest on a marijuana possession charge.

The gun used in the shooting is among the more than 400 taken off the streets by NYPD officers since the beginning of the year. Bronx Borough President Ruden Diaz, who lives near the scene of the shooting, derided the violence and scourge of illegal guns.

"The that we are making this many gun arrests is a problem and really what it is, is an alarm bell that sounding and has been sounding for at least six months," Diaz said.

Jones has retained attorney Dawn Florio, who was on the legal team for Tekashi 6ix9ine. It wasn't immediately clear if lawyer and client had met or discussed a statement on his behalf as of mid-Wednesday afternoon.

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