NYPD Officer Saved by Gun Belt in Running Shootout With Suspect

The incident marks the fourth police shooting in two months.

An NYPD officer was spared serious injury when his gun belt deflected a suspect's bullet during a running shootout Monday morning on the Lower East Side, police said.

Police officer Thomas Richards and his partner Thomas Dunne were patrolling an area of Manhattan just before 2 a.m. when they saw the suspect, identified as Luis Martinez, standing in front of a building on Columbia Street.

As the officers stepped out of their NYPD van to confront Martinez, the suspect muttered something unintelligible, turned toward Richards and fired his 9 mm several times, police said. 

One of the rounds struck the spare ammunition magazine on Richards' gun belt near his left abdomen, bending the magazine.

Richards returned fire and a foot pursuit ensued as the 25-year-old suspect fled on Columbia Street down Rivington Street, towards Baruch Drive.

After several blocks, Martinez stopped, turned, and again fired at Richards and Dunne, police said. Both officers returned fire.

Martinez continued to flee, turning at one point and firing in the officers' direction for a third time. The officers again returned fire.

The suspect was struck in the upper right leg during the shootout and ran, wounded, into a building on Baruch Drive. Following Martinez's blood trail, officers tracked him to Apartment 6C, where he lives, police say.

Martinez was taken into custody at his home without further incident. A 9 mm handgun was recovered from the trash compacter of his building, police said.

Both Richards and Dunne were examined and released from Beth Israel Hospital. They are part of an NYPD crime suppression unit.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly met with both officers Monday morning and said they were in good spirits.

"It was a very close call for Officer Richards," Kelly said. "The magazine may have well saved his life."

Martinez is listed in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital. Pending charges against him are unclear at this time. It wasn't known if he had an attorney.

Monday's shooting marks the fourth time in two months a suspect has fired at a police officer. One officer, Peter Figowski, was shot in the head and killed.

Another, Kevin Brennan, narrowly escaped with his life after sustaining a gunshot wound to the base of his neck. And Detective Kevin Herlihy was wounded in the arm while chasing a career criminal into the subway.

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