The police officer who was shot in the chest yesterday while patrolling the Seward Park Extension on the Lower East Side is lucky to be alive. The bullet was aimed right at Officer Brian Groves's heart, but his bulletproof vest saved him. The NY Times reports, "The officer later collapsed from the pain the bullet’s force had caused, but doctors said he was expected to recover."

Groves and his partner Erick Corniel had been in the building—64 Essex Street— after receiving reports of drug activity. The Post explains:

The officers were walking down separate stairwells from the building’s top floor — the 23rd — when Groves spotted the suspect coming toward him with a silver handgun.

The cop shouted, “Gun!” — and chased him down five flights before the thug wheeled around and fired a round that slammed into Groves’ chest like a heavyweight punch, but didn’t breech his protective armor.

Amazingly, Groves continued chasing the gunman down the stairs for nearly four more floors — squeezing off four shots before collapsing from the pain.

Corniel, who heard the shots and his partner’s shouts, found him slumped in the 15th-floor stairwell.

Police say the suspect fired at Groves from eight feet away. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the bullet, either a .25- or .32 caliber, was "kind of embedded in the last layers of fibers" of the vest. Groves, who lives on Long Island, has a wife and two young daughters. Police Commissioner Kelly said, "Thank God for Kevlar."

Police are still searching for the suspect, described by Kelly as a "male black in his 20s, five-foot, nine inches tall, thin build, with his hair braided in beaded corn-rows," who was wearing a black shirt and red basketball shorts with beige stripes. One resident of the building told the Times that there were no security cameras, even though residents asked for them, "There’s a lot of loiterers at night opening the door to people who don’t live there."

And Mayor Bloomberg has, effectively, blamed the shooting on Washington D.C.