New York Times
February 26, 2014


Police Officer Is Shot in Legs in Brooklyn

By ASHLEY SOUTHALL and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ

A first-year New York City police officer was shot in the legs on Wednesday evening in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, by a man he and his partner had just pulled off a bus for failing to pay the fare, the police said.

The officer, James Li, 26, was taken to Kings County Hospital Center, where he was listed as stable.

Officers arrested a suspect, Rashaun Robinson, 28, in a building near the shooting, which occurred in the area of Utica Avenue and Empire Boulevard, Chief Philip Banks III said at a news conference at the hospital. Mr. Robinson had a loaded .45-caliber handgun on him, the police said.

“This was just a great piece of police work,” Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said at the news conference with Chief Banks and Mayor Bill de Blasio. He added that the suspect “showed no compunction whatsoever” in “firing three times at the officers.”

About 5 p.m., Officer Li and his partner, Randy Chow, had just removed Mr. Robinson and another man from a B46 bus traveling south on Utica Avenue after they saw the men board a bus through a back door without paying the fare, the police said. Mr. Robinson ran, and when Officers Li and Chow gave chase, he fired on the officers, Chief Banks said. Officer Li was injured in the left thigh, right thigh and groin, he said.

In return, Officer Li fired five shots and Officer Chow fired twice, he said. Mr. Robinson was not hit.

Bystanders — including two off-duty emergency medical technicians — provided Officer Li with first aid while Officer Chow radioed for help and continued to chase the suspect, according to fire and police officials. With help from local residents, officers found Mr. Robinson in a fifth-floor hallway of an apartment building at 445 Schenectady Avenue and took the handgun from him, Mr. Banks said.

Mr. Robinson had previously been arrested six times, and there was an active warrant for his arrest in Lebanon, Pa., on charges of narcotics manufacturing and distribution, Chief Banks said. The other suspect who was pulled off the bus had not been found, he said.

Officer Chow, 30, and a female officer whose name was not released were treated for minor injuries, the police said.

Officer Li was the first officer shot on the force this year, according to the police.

Officers Li and Chow, who both graduated from the police academy in December, were assigned to the area as part of Operation Impact, a program that puts new officers in high-crime areas.

“They did everything a good cop does, and they’ve only been on the job for a few months,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Yet, they responded like seasoned veterans.”

Operation Impact was a signature tool of Mr. Bratton’s predecessor, Raymond W. Kelly. But Mr. Bratton is seeking fundamental changes to the program that would see those young officers placed first in traditional patrol assignments and then replaced in the high-crime areas with veteran officers.

The shooting happened at a busy intersection at the start of the evening rush. The bus line is one of several that the police had begun monitoring at the request of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority because of an increase in assaults on bus drivers and other crimes.

After the shooting, dozens of officers arrived at the scene, near a White Castle restaurant on Empire Boulevard near Utica Avenue. In front of the restaurant’s parking lot, beverage cups marked the places where the bullet shells had fallen.

Patrice Washington, who works at a nearby clothing store, said police officers often waited in front of the store to watch for people hopping on the back of a bus.

Cecil Henningham, a worker at a dry cleaner nearby, said he saw many officers descend on the area and then place a young man into a police car.

“I didn’t hear anything,” he said. “I just saw police cars coming from north, west, east and south. And then they ran into this building and took this guy out.”

J. David Goodman and Eli M. Rosenberg contributed reporting.