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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sgt. Craig Bier is 10th NYPD officer wounded


PHOTO: Sgt. Craig Bier is an undated family photo

A highly decorated NYPD sergeant was shot in both legs late Wednesday during a gunfight with a suspect fleeing down a Queens alleyway, police said.

Sgt. Craig Bier, a 15-year veteran assigned to the Queens Gang Unit, was the 10th city cop shot this year.

Fellow officers rushed him to Jamaica Hospital in a patrol car, and Bier was expected to make a full recovery from his wounds.

Bier squeezed off a six shots at the gunman, who opened fire on the officer about 10:30 p.m., Mayor Bloomberg said at a hospital news conference early Thursday. Bier suffered gunshot wounds to both thighs. The suspect fled on foot.

“He’s a great guy, funny,” Bier’s 70-year-old mother, Betty, told the Daily News Thursday morning at the officer’s Long Island home. “He was even making jokes about walking out of the (hospital). ... He is very well-liked. He takes his job seriously, and he is a great father.”

Bier is a divorced dad of a 4-year-old boy, family members said. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly visited with Bier in the hospital.

“This is the type of officer that they public should thank God that we have working for the New York City Police Department,” Kelly said at the hospital news conference.

Bier, the son of a retired NYPD detective who met with the mayor and police commissioner at the hospital, has earned 65 NYPD medals — 14 for meritorious police duty — over his career.

"He's the kind of guy that you want out there," Bloomberg said of Bier. "I don't know that I've ever talked to anybody as enthusiastic about his job."

A man grazed in the head by a gunshot turned up a short time later at another hospital and was initially suspected of being the shooter.

But a police source now says detectives aren't sure if that individual is the gunman. A second man, described by another source as a 24-year-old with an arrest record, is now being sought.

Bier, 44, was working in plainclothes and riding with his partner in an unmarked minivan when they left the vehicle and stopped a bicyclist who was “acting suspicious,” Kelly said.

“When he saw the officers, he began to flee in the opposite direction,” Kelly said. “He ran. He got off the bike. He ran down the alley.”

The suspect bolted down a narrow alley between a house and a 10-feet high chain link fence that encloses a parking lot.

Kelly said the suspect apparently scaled the fence and jumped onto the roof of a white van parked in the lot so he could escape onto 107th Ave.

Bier, who had already run back to 107th Ave. to block the suspect's escape, then exchanged fire with the gunman, Kelly said.

Bier's partner, Detective Nicholas Romano, who had been chasing the gunman along the side of a home on Union Hall St., heard the shots and ran to Bier's aid.

The fallen cop was rushed by his colleagues to Jamaica Hospital in a police car. Officer Kyle Miller, a certified emergency medical technician, applied pressure to Bier's wounds during the ride.

Cops later recovered a Ruger 9-mm. semi-automatic handgun behind 167-11 107th Ave. There were still three bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber.

“Another night and another shooting of one of our Finest,” Bloomberg said. “This is the 10th member of the department shot this year.”

There were nine police officers shot between 2008-11, meaning more officers were shot this year than in the previous four years combined.

A witness who lives on the block where the shooting occurred told The News he heard a total of nine shots.

“There were four shots, a pause, one shot, a pause, and then four shots,” said the witness, who would not give his name.

The suspect fled “and tried to get a cab, but the cab took off,” he added.

Cops at the scene conducted a massive search for the suspect, described as a 6-foot-4 black man wearing a white T-shirt, who fled into the rear yard after the shooting, sources said.

“The shooting of New York City police officers is getting to be outrageous,” said Ed Mullins, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. “I really can't encourage our guys enough to do what they have to do to ensure that they go home at night.”

"I honestly believe there's a correlation between the economic downturn and crime," Mullins continued. "And we have less cops than we did 10 years ago and we're also more aggressive as a police department than we used to be."

COP SHOT has posted a $10,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. Callers can remain anonymous and those with information are urged to call (800) COP-SHOT.

Just a day earlier, 10 people were shot in six gang-related incidents overnight Tuesday after Kelly and Bloomberg made their rounds at National Night Out Against Crime, the annual anti-violence event.

Gun violence is on the rise citywide with 1,058 shooting victims this year through Aug. 5, compared to 977 during the same period last year — an 8.3% spike.

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