NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police officer survived what likely would have been a fatal gunshot wound Thursday when his Kevlar vest stopped a bullet near his heart, police said.
Officer Brian Groves was shot during a stairwell chase in a Lower East Side housing project at about 3:40 a.m., police said. The suspect, who was just 8 feet from Groves when he shot the officer, was being sought Thursday. Groves fired back four times, but it's not known whether the suspect was hit, police said.
Unaware that he had been shot after his vest stopped the bullet, Groves continued pursuing the gunman before he fell and the suspect escaped.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that "by the grace of God and Kevlar" the lead bullet was lodged in Groves' vest at the sternum, just by his heart's right ventricle.
Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Groves on Thursday morning at Bellevue Hospital, where doctors examined the officer to make sure his heart hadn't bruised as a result of the trauma.
"I think it's fair to say only pure luck and our prayers prevented this situation from becoming a tragedy," Bloomberg told reporters.
Groves, 30, and his wife, Nicole, have two children, including a newborn. They live in Patchogue on Long Island. He has worked in the police department's housing bureau since 2005.
According to Kelly, Groves was the ninth NYPD officer shot in the line of duty this year.
The group COP SHOT offered a $10,000 cash reward for information leading to a conviction.
Meanwhile, a transit officer was released from intensive care after he was stabbed in the eye Wednesday at a Long Island Rail Road station in Queens. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Officer John Barnett shot the suspect to death.
It remained unclear whether Barnett, who underwent more than four hours of surgery, would lose vision in his left eye. The surgeon described the wound as "devastating," according to MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.