NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police officer was shot in the arm and the gunman was killed in a shootout in the Bronx, officials said Wednesday.
The confrontation happened at about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday when Officer Dennis Vargas and his partner, patrolling in uniform in an unmarked police car, spotted Rameek Smith, 25, Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
One of the officers approached Smith, who ran, Essig said. Officials said Vargas and his partner were assigned to the neighborhood safety unit, tasked with taking illegal guns off the streets. They did not say what exactly led the officers to approach Smith.
The officers chased Smith on foot, and after a pursuit of about a block and a half, Smith turned and fired two shots, Essig said.
The officers returned fire, and Smith was shot in the head, officials said.
Vargas was shot in the left arm. He was treated at Lincoln Hospital and released. Smith was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he died.
Police said a 9-millimeter Glock handgun that had been reported stolen in June 2021 in Richmond, Virginia, was recovered at the shooting scene.
An angry Mayor Eric Adams, speaking before Smith was pronounced dead, said the suspect had “an extensive arrest history,” including a gun possession arrest after he was caught jumping a subway turnstile in March 2020.
Adams, who joined police officials at a news conference early Wednesday at the hospital where Vargas was being treated, said that while police officers are on the front lines, “we’re spending more attention critiquing their actions. Let’s critique the actions of those who are committing the crimes in this city.”
“The number of shootings we respond to every night is despicable,” said Adams, a Democrat and former police officer.
Officials said Smith listed an address at a homeless shelter on Staten Island but had family members in the Bronx.
He pleaded guilty to the 2020 gun charge in December of last year and was awaiting sentencing, they said.