Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was cradling in his hands a plastic container holding a .22 slug that had just been extracted out of the base of the skull of Officer Kevin Brennan, the second member of his department to be shot in the head while in the line of duty in the past two months.
The commissioner’s face was stoic, betraying no emotion to the assembled members of the print and television media gathered in the lobby of Bellevue Hospital Center late Tuesday night.
Just minutes before Mr. Kelly arrived to the podium with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, those members of the press exchanged anecdotes to one another about their work covering the alleged rape case involving Greg Kelly, Mr. Kelly’s son and a well-known TV personality on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York.”
There was no mention of Greg’s name in the press conference. Instead, the commissioner calmly laid out the circumstances surrounding the shooting of 29-year-old Officer Brennan, a six-year veteran of the force, who chased a suspect into the hallway of the Bushwick Houses in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and narrowly escaped death.
At 9 p.m. this evening, Officer Brennan and two other officers, all plainclothes members of Brooklyn Patrol Borough North’s anti-crime unit, were responding to radio calls of shots fired in the vicinity of 140 Moore Street.
When responding, they encountered three individuals fleeing from that location and the officers gave chase. Officer Brennan followed one individual whom all three officers recognized from “past encounters,” said Mr. Kelly.
That man, later identified as 21-year-old Luis “Baby” Ortiz, ran into the rear entrance of 370 Bushwick Avenue, part of the Bushwick Houses, a housing project, with Officer Brennan running behind him.
In a very short distance between the two, Mr. Ortiz “turned and fired one shot, striking officer Brennan in the base of the skull,” said Mr. Kelly.
Officer Brennan fired one shot in return, which was believed to not have struck Mr. Ortiz.
As this was happening, Officer Brennan’s two colleagues had difficulty opening the door to the rear entrance of 370 Bushwick Avenue that apparently closed after Officer Brennan followed Mr. Ortiz inside the building, Mr. Kelly said. The two heard both shots being fired and forced the door open, discovering the wounded Officer Brennan on the ground.
Mr. Ortiz then escaped to the fifth floor of the building as responding members of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit started their search for the young suspect.
He was later arrested in apartment 5A in 390 Bushwick Avenue, a building close to where the shooting took place. Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Ortiz was also wanted for questioning in connection with a homicide that happened earlier in January.
Officer Brennan, meanwhile, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center. There, Dr. Ronald Simon and his staff of trauma surgeons used fluid and pressure to excrete the bullet from just behind his right ear, said Dr. Eli Kleinman, the supervising chief surgeon of the NYPD.
He was conscious throughout the entire procedure, said Mr. Kelly, and was later joined by Officer Brennan’s parents and wife Janet, who just 6 weeks ago gave birth to a baby girl named Maeve.
In a macabre moment during the press conference, Mr. Kelly asked Dr. Kleinman to hand him the plastic container holding the bullet.
Mr. Kelly took the plastic evidence bag from Dr. Kleinman and removed the container, its insides bloody from the bullet that had been just moments ago been removed from Officer Brennan’s skull.
“He is one lucky young man,” said Mr. Kelly, holding the container up for the press to see.
Indeed, Officer Brennan was lucky. On December 12th in Cyprus Hills, Brooklyn, Police Officer Peter J. Figoski and his partner were responding to calls of a robbery in progress when he was shot in the face by suspect Lamont Pride as he was trying to escape.
The bullet struck Officer Figoski below his left eye and exited the back of his head. He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead five hours after being shot.
Officer Brennan, who was alert and talking with doctors and his visitors following his surgery, was expected to make a full recovery.
For Mr. Kelly, the shooting was just the latest test in a particularly trying period in his otherwise vaunted tenure as police commissioner. His son, recently accused of rape, is being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. He and Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne caught the ire of the Muslim community for Mr. Kelly’s appearance in “The Third Jihad,” a controversial documentary on American Muslims (which Mr. Browne gave conflicting statements explaining Mr. Kelly’s involvement in the film).
But there, in his hands, was a container holding that bullet that nearly claimed the life of another one of his men. Luckily for Officer Brennan and for Mr. Kelly, Mr. Ortiz had aimed poorly.