1 of 2 NYPD cops shot in Bronx is from Putnam

One of two NYPD officers who were shot and wounded by a gunman they encountered in the stairwell of a public-housing project is from Putnam County.

Authorities confirmed the identity of officer Patrick Espeut, 29, of Brewster, and officer Diara Cruz, 24. Both were listed in stable condition Friday.

The Journal News reported that Espeut also is a technical sergeant in the 105th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard based at Stewart Airport in Newburgh. He serves as a broadcaster in the public affairs section.

Police also confirmed the identity of the gunman, who later killed himself, as 23-year-old Malik Chavis. He has 11 previous arrests dating back to 2007, including for drug possession, robbery, grand larceny and criminal trespass, according to authorities.

Police said three officers were on the sixth floor of the Melrose Houses complex in the Bronx Thursday night when they encountered two people. One person pulled a gun and opened fire, hitting Espeut in the cheek and Cruz in the abdomen, before running into an apartment on the seventh floor. The third officer was not hurt.

Officers responding to the scene found the gunman in the apartment dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. A handgun and a shotgun were found inside the apartment, police said. 

The second person who encountered the officers in the stairwell was taken into custody, and three people in the apartment were being questioned, said New York Police Department First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker.

The shooting happened about 5 miles from where Mayor Bill de Blasio was delivering his State of the City address, much of which was dedicated to praising the work of police officers.

De Blasio, a Democrat, was told about the shooting as he finished his speech and left the stage. He met with the family of one of the officers at the hospital where they were being treated.

"Our brave officers were doing their jobs tonight in our public housing on patrol keeping residents safe," de Blasio said. "Both officers are alert and communicating, and we are praying for the best here."

The officers are assigned to the Housing Bureau and have been on the force for about two years. They were shot while they were conducting a vertical patrol, where officers start in the lobby of a public housing project and walk the stairwells up to the roof and back down, Tucker said.

The head of the police officers' union, Patrick Lynch, said the shooting shows the dangerous nature of the job and the difficulty of vertical patrols. "We need your support to teach our young folks that pulling a gun on a police officer works for no one," he said. "This goes to show the dangers police officers face each and every day."

A police officer is on trial for manslaughter in Brooklyn after shooting an unarmed man during a similar patrol in November 2014. Rookie officer Peter Liang had his gun drawn in a pitch-black stairwell at the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn when he accidentally fired a shot. Akai Gurley was on a lower floor walking to the lobby and was struck and killed. Prosecutors say Liang was reckless and shouldn't have had his finger on the gun's trigger. Liang has pleaded not guilty, and his defense has suggested he had his gun drawn because of the dangerous nature of the assignment.

In January, a police officer responding to a large street fight in the Bronx was shot in an ankle. And in October, a police officer responding to a report of shots fired and a bicycle stolen at gunpoint in Manhattan's East Harlem neighborhood was killed.

Associated Press wires contributed to this report.

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