An NYPD officer narrowly escaped death this morning at a shoot-out on the far Lower East Side, when a spare gun clip deflected a bullet meant for him.
Police Officer Thomas Richards, while patrolling near the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side, was stepping out of a police van at 1:44 a.m. when he was shot at by a 25-year-old man, cops said.
The man, Luis Martinez, “muttered something indecipherable, turned toward Officer Richards and fired numerous times,” according to the NYPD.
One of the rounds hit a spare ammunition magazine on Richards’ gun belt, which bent the magazine with its force. Richards had the gun belt slung around his lower left abdomen, and had the belt not been there, the bullet would have struck him in the lower stomach.
Richards then returned fire, and Martinez exchanged bullets with Richards and his partner, Officer Thomas Dunne, as he attempted to flee.
Martinez was hit in the upper right leg, and officers followed the blood trail to an apartment on Baruch Drive, where he was taken to the hospital. Martinez is now in stable condition.
They found his 9mm Taurus handgun in the trash compactor at the same building, cops said.
Neither Dunne nor Richards was injured in this morning's shootout and both have since been examined and released from the hospital.
"It was a very close call for Officer Richards," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "The magazine may have well saved his life."
This was the fourth shooting of a New York City officer in two months, including the death of Sgt. Peter Figoski, killed in December while responding to a robbery.
Officer Kevin Herlihy was shot while tracking a suspect in a Harlem subway station Feb. 14. The suspect, Michael McBride, was shot and killed. He was a suspect in a Queens shooting, cops said.
And in a “miracle,” Kelly said, officer Kevin Brennan survived a bullet to the head Jan. 31. He was shot while wrestling a murder suspect, Kelly said, and the bullet stopped near his skull. Luis "Baby" Ortiz was charged with attempted murder.
Both Kerlihy and Brennan were promoted after the shootings.