Manhattan, NY – A New York police officer was shot in the head while sleeping in his car outside the police precinct between shifts on New Year’s Day.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant Sewell sail the officer wrapped up an eight-hour shift at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1 and was slated to start another shift at 7 a.m., WPIX reported.
Many NYPD officers had their scheduled days off canceled and were working extra shifts during the holiday weekend due to staffing shortages allegedly resulting from COVID-19, the New York Post reported.
The officer opted to sleep in his vehicle out in the parking lot of the 25th Precinct station on East 119th Street because the precinct dormitory was already full, according to the New York Daily News.
At approximately 6:15 a.m., the sleeping officer was jolted awake by rain coming through his shattered car window and an intense pain in his head, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig told the paper.
“He’s in the driver’s seat, he’s reclined, and the bullet comes through and hits him in the head from the rear passenger window,” Chief Essig said during a press conference.
The round struck him above his temple, missing “vital structures by millimeters,” according to police.
The wounded officer and an NYPD sergeant soon located a deformed bullet lodged in his window, the New York Daily News reported.
He was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital with blood dripping from his head.
The officer was taken into surgery, where doctors removed a bullet fragment from his fractured skull.
Medical personnel said the officer’s skull or the window “miraculously deflected” the majority of the bullet’s destructiveness, according to WPIX.
Investigators said the closed window took the brunt of the bullet’s impact, the New York Daily News reported.
The officer, a seven-year veteran of the department and a married father-of-two, is expected to make a full recovery, according to WCBS.
He has been identified as 33-year-old NYPD Officer Keith Wagenhauser, the New York Post reported.
Officer Wagenhauser is also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
Commissioner Sewell said the officer was not targeted by the shooter and said the round was likely fired from someplace further away from the precinct, the New York Daily News reported.
“It appears the bullet was fired from a significant distance away,” Commissioner Sewell told reporters during the press conference. “It’s hard to tell who the intended target was, if any. But let me say this: there are no stray bullets. There is someone firing that weapon.”
— City of New York (@nycgov) January 2, 2022
Investigators also recovered bullet fragments from the officer’s vehicle.
No one reported hearing gunfire in the wake of the shooting and no one has been arrested, the commissioner noted.
“We are extremely grateful that our officer is recovering as we know this could have been a very tragic outcome,” Commissioner Sewell told the New York Daily News. “I also do believe this incident underscores that there are far too many guns out there in the wrong hands.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams vowed to make sure police find the person responsible for firing the round, WCBS reported.
“We will find those who are carrying guns and we will make sure that they are removed off our streets,” Adams declared.
“This is not going to be a city of disorder, this is not going to be a city of violence,” Adams told the New York Daily News. “This city is returning from the violent past to a place that is safe to raise our children and families.”
Chief Essig announced in a tweet Saturday morning that a $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspect responsible for shooting Officer Wagenhauser.
Early this morning an off-duty Police Officer was shot outside the 25 Precinct by someone who chose to fire a gun. Luckily he is going to be ok. That bullet could have struck anyone. Help us find the person who committed this violent act. Call 1-800-COPSHOT if you have info. pic.twitter.com/9TQ2fQKfE7
— Chief James Essig (@NYPDDetectives) January 1, 2022
A group of approximately 60 police officers clapped and cheered as the wounded officer was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon, the New York Post reported.
“Today’s a very, very fortunate day for Keith, his family and the members of the NYPD family,” NYPD 25th Precinct Commander Deputy Inspector Chris Henning told the New York Post. “This is a momentous occasion. It’s great for morale, great to see a smile on Keith’s face, have him walk out with his family.”