Two New York City Police officers were shot on Wednesday night in the Bronx, and one officer died from his injuries, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, citing police sources. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said it was a brazen attack.
“It looked as if the person who pulled the trigger was targeting, was firing at officers,” Bratton said. “We don’t know that for certain, but he was firing away.”
Deputy Inspector Stephen Arnold, 52, and Officer Miosotis Familia, 48, were responding to a 911 call from a cab driver reporting that a gunman in a gray car with tinted windows had just shot a man in a brown cab, police said.
The officers arrived on the scene and called for backup, but the gunman pulled up just as the officers were arriving. Shots were fired, and Familia was struck twice in the head, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said at an afternoon news conference.
Familia was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital and pronounced dead, police said. Arnold was taken to the same hospital and is in stable condition. The gunman fled the scene in the gray car with two other people and was found dead in the backseat of that car, Bratton said.
The shooting took place on Junipero Serra Boulevard, about a half mile from Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. Bratton said the officers were investigating a report of a car break-in when they encountered the gunman, whom he described as an ex-convict who had been shot and wounded by police at a time when the suspect had a loaded weapon. The suspect has not been identified.
The officers’ names were published in the New York Post shortly after midday Thursday, but the identities were withheld pending family notification.
Neighbors who saw the shooting described a chaotic scene, with both officers down.
“Two officers lying on the street. There were multiple bullets. It sounded like automatic fire,” said Kenia Rodemez, 21, who lives in the neighborhood.
Her roommate, Jose Fuentes, said, “I heard a dozen shots. I saw [the officers] lying on the street.”
The Post reported that one police precinct has four officers assigned to patrol the Bronx area alone, and another station house has had one officer assigned to a senior management position in the area, giving one officer more attention and outmaneuvering potential threats.
“It is a crisis here. We have had an increase in crime in that section and other parts of the borough,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “There is at least one very violent violent crime — a major violent crime — reported every five days. This is where the detectives in the 62nd Precinct patrol.”
One of the officers, Arnold, was severely wounded in a gun battle with a gunman on March 5, 1986. He had been shot in the left leg and returned to the job the next day after having his leg amputated above the knee.
De Blasio said that there was no way to pinpoint when exactly the attack happened, and he told reporters he did not know whether Familia was engaged in a traffic stop or on foot patrol.
“This was a brazen attack on our city,” de Blasio said. “It is an attack on the entire department, and I think, all of us, whether you are a member of law enforcement or an average New Yorker, we feel deeply for the families that are suffering tonight.”
De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo released statements of support to the officers’ families, calling them heroes. The shooting happened on the 14th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
“Tonight, all New Yorkers are proud of our brave police officers, and today, we all mourn their deaths,” Cuomo said.
The president of the union that represents NYC officers, Pat Lynch, praised the officers in a lengthy Facebook post, calling them heroes.
“We have another example of what happens when low-level offenders break the law and get away with it,” Lynch said. “New York City police officers are targets.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.