Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Saturday that the off-duty police officer who shot a suspected groper in a Harlem subway station did so because he feared his life was in danger, as the altercation between the two occurred as two trains were approaching.
"We believe at this time that the officer intended to shoot because he was in fear of his life. They were struggling, rolling on the train station as two trains were coming in," said Kelly.
The alleged groper, Jacob Sanford, 22 and of the Bronx, is facing charges of forcible touching, sex abuse, child endangerment, and resisting arrest.
Authorities say a woman yelled for police at the 125th Street station in Harlem around 12:30 p.m. Friday after her 13-year-old daughter told her a man had groped her.
Officer Jason Butler approached, and as he was getting their story, an 18-year-old girl told the officer she had been groped by the same man.
Investigators say the women pointed out Sanford on a platform bench. Butler approached and identified himself.
The two men struggled, and witnesses say they saw Sanford try to "body slam" the officer as two trains entered the station.
Butler fired one shot, hitting Sanford in the lower back.
"He shouldn't have gotten shot, but at the same time they should know not to go around doing things like that. It's horrible. There's children on the train and they're going around doing these things," said subway rider.
"Stop groping people. Who are you to go around groping someone? How dare you, holidays and you want to go around groping people. Get a life, get over it," said one resident.
Sanford was taken to Harlem Hospital.
Police say he has about 20 prior arrests, including two for felony assaults on police.
The officer was taken to St. Luke's Hospital for trauma.