THE BRONX — She deserved better.
That's what the accused gunman said of the 4-year-old girl he grazed in a daylight shootout with an accused gang member on Wednesday in a tiff over a Medicaid scam, according to authorities.
"That little girl deserves better than this," James Thomas, 57, told police from the hospital where he was treated for a bullet wound to the back.
The girl was grazed by a round, also in the back, and received stitches for her wound, according to the Bronx District Attorney's office.
She had to undergo surgery, authorities said.
Thomas also confessed to the shooting when questioned by police.
"I ain't going to lie to you sir, he shot me and I shot him," Thomas told officers, according to the criminal complaint.
He and Fredrick Fielder, 33, who police also arrested as the rival party in the shooting, fired 17 shots in all, spraying bullets and shattering storefront windows on East 167th Street near Teller Avenue.
There was one other shooter still at large, police said.
Thomas has been charged with two counts of attempted murder as well as a slew of lesser charges. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and was remanded.
Fielder has not yet been arraigned.
According to police, the melee began when several cars pulled up in front of 360 East 167th St. and an argument escalated to fist-fight and then to a shootout.
Thomas, who is on lifetime parole for second-degree murder, was in a car when someone he was with, who has not yet been arrested, shot Fielder in the leg, according to the complaint.
Thomas then got out and started shooting at Fielder, too. The child, who was seated in a car, was struck.
Thomas, who was arrested again this year for forgery, took a cab to the hospital after the brawl.