CROWN HEIGHTS — A rookie police officer trying to arrest a fare beater on a Brooklyn bus was shot in both legs Wednesday afternoon, according to the NYPD.
The shooting started about 5 p.m. when officer James Li, 26, and his partner Randy Chow, 30, saw two men trying to board the back of a B46 bus on Utica Avenue, NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks said.
When the two officers, both in their first year on the job, confronted known drug dealer Rashaun Robinson, 26, he bolted with the officers in pursuit, Banks said.
As the chase entered the parking lot of the White Castle on Utica, Robinson turned to fire three times from 5 to 10 feet away and hit Li in both thighs, dropping him to the ground, according to Banks. Li and Chow both returned fire.
Chow called for help on his radio and continued to pursue the suspect, while several good Samaritans gave his partner first aid, Banks said.
Other citizens pointed Chow and responding officers to 455 Schenectady Ave., near Lefferts Avenue, where they found Robinson on the fifth floor, police said.
He was taken into custody and police grabbed his .45-caliber Smith & Wesson, the chief said. Shell casings found at the scene matched the weapon, police said.
Police continued to search Thursday for the man Robinson had tried to board the bus with, an NYPD spokesman said.
Robinson was still awaiting formal charges Thursday morning, the spokesman added.
Robinson has been arrested six times, some for drug possession and sales, and he also has an open warrant in Lebanon, Pa., on charges linked to making and selling drugs, Banks said.
Both officers and a policewoman, who sprained her ankle in the chase, were alert and in good spirits Wednesday night. Li was expected to undergo surgery at Kings County Hospital for his injuries, the chief said.
"So [a] dangerous felon now off the street and another firearm off the street all the result of very huge police work by two rookie police officers, who I am pleased to have as members of the New York City Police Department," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
The officers, who graduated in December, were assigned to Operation Impact, watching out for assaults on bus drivers.
"I have to tell you that Officer Li and Officer Chow really did everything we could conceivably ask of them," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "They did everything that a good cop does and they've only been on the job for a few months and yet they responded like seasoned veterans. It is something that we as New Yorkers should be very, very proud of."
Li is the first officer shot in the city since last summer.
Additional reporting by Murray Weiss.