Officer Dennis Vargas, 32, an eight-year veteran who began working last October for the NYPD’s new anti-gun unit, Borough Public Safety Team, and his partner exchanged gunfire with an assailant — identified by sources as Rameek Smith, 25 — after he bolted when the cops tried to stop him just south of Third Ave. at Claremont Parkway, Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
“The male … turned on the officers and fired two shots,” Essig said at an early Wednesday news conference.
“Two officers returned fire, striking the male.”
Smith, who has an official address in Staten Island, was struck in the head and taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was in critical condition, Essig said.
Vargas was shot in the left arm and was being treated at Lincoln Hospital.
Essig said Smith was armed with a 9-mm Glock that was recovered at the scene, and was last traced to Richmond, Va., on June 14, 2021.
Smith’s criminal history is extensive, with police sources claiming he’s racked up nine arrests, with two of them unsealed cases, including a robbery and most recently, a gun charge in Brooklyn for which he appeared in court on May 4 and was due to return in June.
At the news conference, an angry Mayor Adams, who said the cop’s father-in-law is also an NYPD officer, railed at the suspect’s arrest record.
“Who the hell will protect the innocent New Yorkers in this city?” the mayor thundered.
“That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. It is time for us to stop spending our energy protecting people who are committing crimes and violence. This person has an extensive arrest history. He has made up his mind. He was not going to stop until he took the life of an innocent person. I’m tired of the complaints about the officers who are doing their job.”
Adams also decried “the same criminals are continuing to come out in our streets“ to commit “violence over and over again.”
“The gun arrest was in Brooklyn,” Adams said of Smith’s most recent bust.
“The shooting tonight was in the Bronx. The number of times that we had to respond to these shootings, New Yorkers deserve better. We took 2,600 guns off our streets and the shooters of those guns are back on our streets just like this person.”