Bronx, NY – The gunman accused of shooting a New York police officer with a stolen gun in the Bronx on Tuesday night had an extensive criminal history and was awaiting sentencing on another gun charge at the time of the attack.
The shooting occurred near Claremont Parkway and Bathgate Avenue at approximately 10:45 p.m. on May 10, WNYW reported.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Dennis Vargas and his partner were in an unmarked vehicle working for the agency’s public safety team when they allegedly spotted 25-year-old Rameek Smith carrying a weapon, according to the New York Post.
Police said Smith took off on foot as Officer Vargas approached him, then turned and shot at him twice, WNYW reported.
Despite having two bullet wounds in his left arm, Officer Vargas was able to return fire, shooting Smith in the head.
Smith was transported to St. Barnabas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, WNYW reported.
Officer Vargas was rushed to Lincoln Hospital, where he was treated and released to recover at home.
Investigators said they recovered Smith’s 9mm Glock handgun at the scene, FOX News reported.
A cop was shot last night by a violent, career criminal, who was on our streets despite his extensive criminal record. Rameek Smith had been arrested nine times prior to last night's incident, most recently for a gun charge in Brooklyn. Bail reform needs reform! #Violence pic.twitter.com/vUSM9Vu1qe
— Lieutenants Benevolent Association (@lbanypd) May 11, 2022
The firearm had been reported as stolen in Richmond, Virginia one year prior.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Smith had an extensive criminal history and was awaiting sentencing on an illegal gun possession charge at the time of the shooting, FOX News reported.
That charged stemmed from an incident in Coney Island, during which Smith was arrested for jumping a subway turnstile while armed with a handgun.
He was on probation for a 2016 robbery conviction at the time.
The gun was loaded with “inoperable” ammunition, so prosecutors lessened the charge against him, FOX News reported.
“Because the bullets were considered inoperable, the law says it was unloaded,” Mayor Eric Adams noted. “The bad guy didn’t know it was inoperable. And because it was inoperable, it no longer carried with it a higher crime.”
The bravery of our officer, who was shot in the Bronx, is to be commended. We’re thankful he’s walking out of the hospital to continue recovering — and in awe of his dedication to the New Yorkers he proudly serves. Join us in the round of applause! pic.twitter.com/KOeu4RPhR4
— Commissioner Sewell (@NYPDPC) May 11, 2022
Smith had a total of nine prior convictions at the time of the attack on Officer Vargas, according to the New York Post.
Commissioner Sewell described Smith as a “dangerous criminal who should not have been on the streets.”
“We can’t stand for these types of dangerous and highly avoidable confrontations with repeat offenders who are given every leeway by the criminal justice system,” she said, according to FOX News. “We need to right these wrongs.”
Adams said criminals like Smith are being released “back on the streets” at an alarming pace, the New York Post reported.
“The same criminals are continuing to come out in our streets committing violence over and over again,” the mayor fumed.
Adams called the incident “despicable.”
“I’ve never witnessed anything like this,” he told FOX News. “There’s real energy out there that it’s alright to carry and use a gun because nothing is going to happen to you. That fear did not exist during the crack epidemic. Never before have we created the level of comfortability of carrying and using an illegal gun in our cities across America than right now.”
Retired NYPD Homicide Detective Teresa Leto told FOX News that the shooting of Officer Vargas highlights “a real crack in our system.”
“That this person after he commits another crime… his probation should have been violated at that time,” Leto said. “If that happened, this officer wouldn’t have been shot and this guy wouldn’t have been dead.”
Officer Vargas was the eighth NYPD officer wounded in the line of duty so far this year, WNYW reported.