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Burst of police shootings raises fears of growing violence against NYPD

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jan 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-04 19:32:23-05

SUNSET PARK, BROOKLYN (PIX11) — The day after three NYPD cops were shot within an hour of one another, two of the officers are now back home, and the other is expected to leave the hospital shortly.  Their fortunate situation contrasts with what one of the city’s top cops calls a disturbing trend of criminals targeting police for deadly violence.

Outside Lutheran Medical Center on 55th Street Friday morning, rows of dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers applauded while bagpipes played and a nurse wheeled Officer Michael Levay out of the medical facility.  He showed a thumb up to all of his colleagues.

“Glad to be heading home,” the officer said, just before standing up from his wheelchair to step into a waiting car.  The thumb up and five words seemed like understatements considering that Officer Levay had been shot at point blank range in the back 17 hours earlier, and lived to tell about it.

Levay shot and killed the as yet unidentified man who pulled a 9-millimeter gun on him and his partner, Officer Lukasz Kozicki.

 Kozicki also got a hero’s sendoff when he was released from Lutheran Medical Center about three-and-a-half hours after Levay.

The two NYPD transit cops were patrolling on the Manhattan-bound N train at Fort Hamilton Station, Brooklyn, Thursday around 7:30 P.M. When they spotted the man walking between cars on the train, and asked him for his ID, the man instead pulled out the gun and fired.

“He pulled the weapon on the police officer, saw his bullet resistant vest, then lowered it to make sure he got flesh,” said Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police officers’ union.

In an interview with PIX11 News, the PBA president talked about what he perceives to be an increasing effort by criminals to endanger cops’ lives.  He said the other Thursday night incident of a cop being shot  is further evidence of a disturbing trend.

NYPD Officer Juan Pichardo was off-duty, working at his family’s Bronx car dealership, when two guys came in at around 6:30, claiming to be interested in buying a red Nissan on the lot.  Once they got into the business, which was about to close for the day, one of the two men pulled out a .380 handgun, and ordered Pichardo and a coworker into a back office, where their hands were bound with zip ties.

After the two men ransacked the business,  Pichardo and his coworker managed to wrestle the gun away from the attacker, but not before he popped off a shot to the officer’s leg.  Pichardo and his coworker held the man down until police arrived, while the man’s accomplice fled with two other men who were in a waiting getaway car.

Police eventually arrested them all, but Pat Lynch said the entire situation shows how increasingly vulnerable officers are.  “The perps know there aren’t enough cops on the street,” Lynch said to PIX11 News, “And they’re willing to pull that weapon and they’re willing to pull the trigger on a police officer.”

He was responding to overall numbers of police shootings recently.  In 2012, a dozen officers were shot, all but one while on duty.  All survived, but with three cops shot this year so far, in a very new year,  the cops’ union president is concerned that a disturbing trend of officers being targeted by criminals is forming.

Lynch also said that in both shooting incidents on Thursday, the officers were able to protect civilians from being badly hurt.  In the Bronx car dealership holdup, only the off-duty officer was hurt.  In the subway shooting, one passenger was grazed in the leg by a bullet.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday said that easy access to guns is the problem.  The gun that was used in the Bronx attempted holdup was stolen from North Carolina, according to the NYPD, and the subway shooter had his gun despite the fact that he’d had numerous criminal convictions on his record.

“No other civilized society in the world has this many guns or murder rate,” Mayor Bloomberg said in his weekly radio broadcast.  “So with all the guns, we get less safe, not more safe.”

The PBA president doesn’t necessarily disagree regarding the problem.  However, his solution contrasts with the policies of City Hall, where there have been steady reductions in the police force over the last decade.  

Crime has gone down as well, but Pat Lynch is concerned that a breaking point is on the horizon, where criminals take advantage of a lower number of cops.  

“The way to combat guns on the street is to have more police officers,” Lynch said.  “And we don’t have it now.”

Officer Pichardo, who had been injured while foiling the attempted holdup in the Bronx, remained in Jacobi Medical Center Friday night.  He is expected to make a full recovery.