Two cops were shot at a Bronx housing project Thursday night by a gunman who then fled and took his own life, police said.
Officer Diara Cruz was shot in the thigh and Patrick Espeut suffered a graze wound to the temple after they encountered Malik Chavis in the Melrose Houses on East 156the Street at about 8 p.m., according to authorities.
Cruz, 24, and Espeut, 29, were part of a three-officer unit on routine vertical patrol when they came upon Chavis, 23, and a second man on the sixth floor of one of the buildings in the complex, sources said.
They asked the men for identification and Chavis said he needed to retrieve it on the seventh floor.
When Chavis, Cruz and Espeut reached the top of the landing, the gunman suddenly turned and fired three rounds at the officers, striking them both.
“There were a lot of gunshots,” said a resident, Kendrick Joseph, 18. “They went pop, pop, pop. I lost count of how many shots there were.”
Despite being wounded, Espeut fired two rounds at the shooter, but apparently missed.
Chavis, who reportedly had more than a dozen arrests, then ran to a friend’s apartment on the seventh floor and declared, “I just shot a female cop. I don’t wanna go back to jail,” sources said.
He then turned the gun on himself.
When cops stormed the apartment, the men inside simply pointed to a back room.
There, the officers discovered Chavis’ body, a .32-caliber handgun at his side. They also found a sawed-off shotgun in a black bag in the apartment, the sources said. The shooter spent five years in jail for armed robbery, and was released in 2014.
Three men were detained by police and were being questioned.
Witnesses watched as the wounded cops were rushed to ambulances.
“The girl was brought out on a stretcher first,” said Joseph said, “They ripped open her pant leg and she was bleeding from there. It was really bloody.”
EMTs stabilized the officers.
“The ambulance worker . . . was telling the woman to hold her wound and to put pressure on it,” Joseph said. “The man was brought out on a stretcher and his head was wrapped up in bandages. He was covered in blood.”
Both cops underwent surgery at Lincoln Hospital. They were said to be alert and talking on Thursday night.
“They are very lucky,” said a law-enforcement source. “He shot them at point-black range, and they’re gonna get out of this hospital alive.”
Both have two years on the job and work for Public Service Area 7 in the 40th Precinct.
“Proud of my officers, hopeful for their speedy recovery, grateful for the many expressions of concern and support on their behalf,” Commissioner Bill Bratton tweeted.
Mayor de Blasio, who had just delivered his State of the City speech at nearby Lehman College, rushed to the hospital.
“The officers confronted an armed assailant, but thank God in both cases, their condition is good,” the mayor said.
“We are praying for the best here, and of course, our hearts and our prayers are with their families.
It’s another example of what our officers confront every single day, keeping us safe not only on the streets of New York City, but in the stairwells and the hallways of our public-housing developments.”
Even in the hardened neighborhood, residents expressed shock at the attack.
“It’s a surprise. I don’t know what it takes for a man to shoot a cop,” Joseph said.
“It’s not a good neighborhood — but shooting cops?”
The incident was the second officer-involved shooting in the 40th Precinct this year. On Jan. 9, Officer Sherrod Stuart was shot in the ankle and survived.
Four NYPD cops have been fatally shot in the past 14 months: Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn in December 2014, Brian Moore in Queens in May 2015, and Randolph Holder in East Harlem last October.