An NYPD officer was grazed in the head with a bullet while he slept in his personal car outside the 25th Precinct in East Harlem early Saturday, officials said, casting a grim shadow over Mayor Eric Adams’ first day in office as he vowed to tackle gun violence in the wake of the shooting.
The officer, who was identified by police officials only by his first name, Keith, has a fractured skull and was recovering at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital, said new NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell outside the hospital Saturday.
It was not immediately clear if the officer was targeted or if the bullet was a stray. Sewell said the bullet appeared to have been fired from a “significant” distance away, and no one at the 25th Precinct heard gunfire, she said. No arrests have been made and the investigation was ongoing, Sewell said.
The officer is a seven-year veteran of the force who had worked eight hours at a New Year’s Eve event in Central Park until 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Sewell said.
His next shift was slated to start at 7 a.m. so the officer decided to sleep in his personal car parked in the back parking lot of the 25th Precinct, Sewell said. The precinct, located on East 119th between Park and Lexington avenues, houses dorms for officers to sleep. With the New Year’s Eve shift, all dorms inside the precinct were full, she said.
While the officer slept reclined in the driver’s seat, “the bullet comes through and hits him in the head from the rear passenger window,” said Chief of Detectives James Essig at the press conference.
Without any other reports of gunfire, it’s unclear when the bullet struck the officer, who woke up around 6:15 a.m. with pain on the left side of his head and realized his rear passenger window was broken, Sewell said.
The officer walked into the precinct house where an on-duty sergeant who was outside of the building “observed blood coming from the officer’s head,” Sewell said. The officer was taken to New York-Presbyterian for surgery where doctors removed bullet fragments from his wound.
"We are grateful this officer is recovering as we know this could have been a very tragic outcome," Sewell said. The NYPD is reviewing ShotSpotter data and surveillance video in the area as part of the investigation.
The recent surge in COVID cases across New York City has also affected the NYPD – Sewell referenced the rise in sick officers leading to staffing shortages and quick turnaround on shifts.
“This is also an example of how our department is facing the challenges of COVID-19. Our courageous officers are relentlessly doing everything they can to make sure that cops are on the street and here for New Yorkers, including taking a short rest in their cars between tours when their days off are canceled,” she said.
Adams, who's consistently pledged greater resources to fight crime, said at the press conference that the shooter will be brought to justice amid broader crime crackdowns.
“We must not only find the gun, but we must find the person who discharged the weapon and we must find those who believe they are going to destroy our city with gun and gang violence,” Adams said.
The police shooting shifted the tone of Adams’ eventful first day in office Saturday, which he kicked off at 12:06 a.m. at his swearing-in ceremony in Times Square after the New Year’s ball drop.
Adams then appeared on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” where he told Seacrest he had a few parties to attend but that he would “be up early in the morning, working for the city of New York,” according to NBC New York.
Before 8 a.m., Adams headed to City Hall from his brownstone in Bed Stuy, where he saw a fistfight near a subway station and called 911 to report an assault in progress, according to reporters who accompanied him. By the time two patrol cars showed up, the fight had ended.
At City Hall, Adams held his first cabinet meeting then gave his mayoral address at noon where he told New Yorkers “we will not be controlled by crisis.” The shooting of the officer forced Adams to postpone an event where he was to sign several executive orders.
“I wanted New Yorkers and the world to be reminded of two things right away as my administration begins. First, that despite COVID-19 in its persistence, New York is not closed. It is still open and alive. Because New Yorkers are more resilient than the pandemic,” Adams said. “And second, that New York can and should be the center of the universe again – bustling, thriving, electric with the energy of people.”