SOUTH BRONX — The police officer shot three times patrolling the stairwell of the Melrose Houses last week was released from Lincoln Hospital on Wednesday.
Police Officer Diara Cruz was wheeled out by her partner Officer Patrick Espeut, who was also wounded in the same gunfight.
She was greeted by a throng of applauding police officers and bagpipe music. Espeut was released from the hospital on Friday.
Cruz stood up from the wheelchair about halfway to her car and walked the rest of the way, offering the crowd a thumbs up once she made it inside the vehicle.
The officers were both wounded Thursday night when Malik Chavis, 23, pulled out a gun and fired at the two officers before fleeing up to the seventh floor, police said.
Espeut was shot in the face and released from Lincoln Hospital on Friday, but Cruz was hit in the neck, torso and leg and she required a lengthier stay.
Chavis committed suicide by shooting himself in the head rather than return to prison, according to police and sources.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch was extremely happy to see Cruz leave the hospital, describing her as a model police officer.
"Today is a terrific day," Lynch said. "We had this police officer who heroically on the street did her job, unfortunately got shot, but today got out of that wheelchair and walked."
Although it will still take some time for Cruz and Espeut to fully heal, Lynch said both were eager to get back to work.
"I know these police officers," he said. "They’re looking to get back. Get back in the radio car, get back on patrol, and I’m sure they will."