NYPD officer shot in back in Bronx released from hospital

SOUNDVIEW, Bronx (WABC) -- An NYPD officer was released from Jacobi Medical Center Thursday morning as he recovers from being shot in the lower back in a Bronx street shootout.

Thirty-one-year-old Officer Daniel Vargas, described as "a proud son of the Bronx," had been hospitalized since the Tuesday night gunfire.

He was applauded by his fellow officers as he left the hospital. Officer Vargas was brought out in a wheelchair and assisted into a waiting van. He gave a thumbs up and said, "I'm good," when asked how he was feeling by reporters.
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Officer Vargas gave a thumbs up as he left the hospital. The officer was shot in the back on Tuesday night in the Bronx.

The 24-year-old man who allegedly fired four times at the officer was held without bail following his arraignment in the Bronx.

Ajani Jones was charged with the attempted murder of a police officer, which carries a 20-years-to-life sentence, as well as assault, weapon possession, and possession of stolen property.

He has several prior arrests in New York City and New Jersey.

The shooting was captured on video by a camera aboard an MTA bus, prosecutors said at his arraignment.

The gun was reported stolen in South Carolina. Jones told police he had it because "it's dangerous out there."

Vargas was shot Tuesday after members of the Gun Violence Suppression Division saw Jones on Lafayette Avenue near White Plains Road just before 10:30 p.m.

Police say Jones immediately took off running. The officers made a u-turn in their unmarked car and followed.

Once under the scaffolding on Lafayette Avenue, police said the officers got out and chased Jones who they say pulled out a weapon and fired four shots.

One bullet hit Officer Vargas in the back, just below his protective vest.

Vargas fired once, but the suspect was not struck.

"Within minutes, within seconds, they were in a gunfight," Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

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An NYPD officer was shot in the back in the Bronx Tuesday night, according to police.

Witness Alicia Johnson commends the officers for what they did next.

"They called out who they were and they told him to get down," Johnson said. "He got down and they took him into custody."

The six-and-a-half-year veteran officer, whom the mayor called "a proud son of the Bronx," had been surrounded by family at the hospital, many of them police officers themselves.

"They are very upset. They are very upset," Shea said. "But at the same time, they realize - probably an element of shock - how it could have been very different."

Shea said this is yet another example of the skyrocketing number of gun arrests police are making.

So far this year, 417 arrests -- a 75% increase from the same time last year, about 16 gun arrests each day.

"We need help in terms of legislative fixes," Shea said. "We need judges to keep dangerous people off the streets."

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said as hard as his officers do their work, their work is to no avil.

Lynch said laws are too lax, allowing criminals back on the streets.

"They've emptied Rikers Island, they have demonized police officers, they have restricted us from doing our jobs and then the prosecutors are not prosecuting the cases," Lynch said.

Sources tell Eyewitness News the plainclothes officers were actually looking for the suspect's brother. They wanted to talk with him about his role in a different shooting.

MORE NEWS: Owner torched his Queens restaurant after COVID shutdown, investigators say
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Investigators say 54-year-old Asif Raja set the fire in several locations inside his restaurant, but the sprinkler system knocked the flames down.

It is the third shooting of an NYPD officer in the past three months. All of the officers survived.

In November, two officers investigating a domestic violence complaint were shot in Queens in an exchange of gunfire that killed the suspect.

And on Christmas Eve, a police officer was shot in Brooklyn while responding to a call, also domestic violence.

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