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Cop Shot During Chase in Queens Alley

By  Trevor Kapp Tuan Nguyen and Alan Neuhauser | August 9, 2012 7:41am | Updated on August 9, 2012 7:49pm

QUEENS — A decorated 15-year veteran of the NYPD was shot and wounded after a foot chase in an alley in Jamaica sparked a wild shootout late Wednesday, officials said.

Sgt. Craig Bier, 44, a member of the Queens Gang Unit and son of a retired NYPD detective, was struck by bullets in each leg while pursuing a suspect at 106-20 107th Ave., Union Hall Street, just after 10:30 p.m., police said.

"This is the type of officer the public should thank God they have working for the New York City Police Department," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who noted that Bier has earned 65 medals, including 14 for meritorious service.

Bier, who returned fire, was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where he had an operation to remove a bullet from his right leg and was in stable condition.

Police are searching for John Thomas, 24, in connection with the shooting of Sgt. Craig Bier Aug. 8, 2012.
Police are searching for John Thomas, 24, in connection with the shooting of Sgt. Craig Bier Aug. 8, 2012.
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"He's doing fine," said Bier's mom, Betty, 70, as she left the hospital with other relatives. "He just said that he's tired."

Bier, a Long Island resident, is the son of a retired NYPD detective who was also shot on the job and survived, according to reports.

Police were searching Thursday afternoon for alleged gunman John Thomas, 24, who lives just four blocks from the scene of the shooting. Police traced Thomas based on keys that were found at the scene, NBC New York reported.

Police described Thomas as 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, with long hair.

There is a $22,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest and conviction, police said.

Wednesday's shooting marks the 10th time a police officer has been shot this year.

"Another night, another shooting of one of our Finest," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at an early morning press conference at Jamaica Hospital with other officials.

Most recently, Officer Brian Groves was shot in the chest at point-blank range while pursuing a suspect in a Lower East Side housing complex last month.

On Wednesday night, Bier, who reportedly has a 4-year-old son, and his partner, Det. Nick Romano, were in plainclothes patrolling Jamaica in an unmarked minivan when they spotted what appeared to be a suspicious man riding a bicycle on 107th Avenue, police said.

When they tried to stop the man, Thomas, who was nearby, fled in the opposite direction, darting down an alley between a house and a tall, chain-link fence that enclosed a parking lot on Union Hall Street, Kelly told reporters Thursday afternoon.

As Romano pursued him along the side of a two-family house at 167-12 Union Hall St., Bier sprinted to 107th Avenue to block the gunman's escape route, Kelly said. That's when the gunman let off four shots — two of which struck Bier in the legs.

"Officer down, officer down!" a bloody Bier shouted into his walkie talkie, according to witness Annette West.

Despite being wounded, Bier returned fire, getting off six shots. It is unclear whether he hit the suspect.

"I heard three shots, pop, pop, pop, one after another," said Marva Clarke, 44, who lives down the block from scene of the shooting.

This Ruger 9mm handgun was found near the scene of the shootout.
This Ruger 9mm handgun was found near the scene of the shootout.
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"You could smell the gunpowder," added resident Thetchaya Hernandez, 28. "It was like a tire burning."

Pastor Christopher Howard of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which is at the corner of Union Hall Street and 106th Avenue, said one of the shots tore into the house of worship.

"A bullet flew inside the church," he said. "It shattered the chandelier."

After the shootout, Bier was alert and conscious, witnesses said.

"He was talking," said West, 48, who lives near the site of the shooting. "He was very alert. He was calm."

Romano and a nearby police unit heard the gunshots and rushed to the scene, where they found Bier collapsed on the sidewalk, Kelly said.

"I came outside and saw about 10 police cars driving really fast down the block. Then they got out of the cars and were running," Clarke said of the cops. "They had their guns out and were rushing all over. I never saw anything like it."

The cops helped Bier to a police car, and an officer drove him to the hospital, Kelly said.

A Ruger 9mm handgun was recovered near the scene of the gunfight. The weapon was purchased from a Virginia gun shop in 1994, Kelly said.

Reporters Aidan Gardiner and Jeff Mays contributed to this article.