Police officer saved by bulletproof vest, but gunman still on the loose
By Alissa Fleck
After a police officer was shot last week, some Lower East Side residents and workers have mixed feelings about the safety of the area.
The incident occurred around 3:40 a.m. last Thursday during a routine patrol of the Seward Park House complex. Officer Brian Groves reportedly opened a stairwell door in the complex’s Essex Street building when he saw the suspect carrying a pistol. The suspect allegedly fled down the stairs, but turned back to fire on Groves, who returned fire before realizing he had been shot near the heart. Fortunately, he was saved by his bulletproof vest and is expected to fully recover.
At the time of the shooting, Groves, 30, and his partner were performing a “vertical patrol,” a sweep of a building starting at the top floor working down.
Police Commisioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement, “The vertical patrol that [Groves] and his partner engaged in is a common, proactive police practice to give some measure of safety to residents of public housing.” He added, “Approximately 4 percent of the city’s population resides in public housing, but it experiences about 20 percent of all violent crime.”
The shooting took place between the 18th and 19th floors of the building after the officers began to pursue the man. Groves dropped near the 15th floor, and the gunman escaped. It’s unclear whether the gunman was shot.
According to the Seward Park House Cooperative’s website, the complex was operated for over 30 years as a limited-equity co-op, allowing it to receive tax subsidies for keeping apartment prices below market rates. They now sell at market rate.
Thursday afternoon, the surrounding area was cordoned off with police tape. Officers said it would be closed at least for the day.
One MTA worker at the Delancey/Essex Street subway station said, “I feel safe, but the community is not safe. The Chase Manhattan Bank [at the corner of Delancey and Essex] has been robbed twice. It’s not safe for police officers; it’s not safe for anyone.”
Jeff Andrews, a resident of the area, said it was the first time he had seen anything like this in the neighborhood. “This is a big thing,” said Andrews, a three-year resident of the neighborhood. “It looks like World War 3 over there.”
Andrews believes police were being overzealous in their search for the gunman and alleged that police were searching every apartment. “They’ve been here since 2:30 [a.m.],” he stated, pointing to the long line of police vans in front of the housing complex.
When asked if the incident made him feel any less safe, Andrews answered, “I guess something’s got to happen sooner or later.”
Another resident, Mike Duvall, said he had been living nearby for 22 years. Duvall said the incident “doesn’t change anything” and he still “absolutely feel[s] safe.”
A construction worker who had been working nearby for months also said he felt no less safe after the shooting.
Groves is the ninth police officer shot on duty this year. As of last Thursday afternoon, police were still looking for the suspect, described by Kelly as “a black male in his 20s, about 5-foot-9, thin build, with his hair braided in corn rows, wearing a black T-shirt with red basketball shorts with beige stripes.”
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