A cop owes his life to an ammo magazine on his belt that deflected a bullet fired at him in a shootout on the Lower East Side early Monday, police said.
Police Officer Thomas Richards and his partner, Thomas Dunne, were shot at as they approached suspect Luis Martinez, 25, at 47 Columbia Street about 1:45 a.m., according to an NYPD account of the shooting.
"I heard about 12 at once, then it stopped," said Wilfredo Alvero, 84, of the gunfire. "And then I heard four more. It sounded like an automatic shotgun."
Police said one of Martinez's bullets bounced off the spare ammunition magazine at Richard's abdomen, bending the metal casing but saving the officer's life.
"Another miracle," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in a radio interview with Rep. Peter King, who was hosting John Gambling's program on WOR 710.
It's the latest in the a string of shootings in which officers have survived.
Kelly added that Richards was lucky to be alive.
"An inch either way, and it would have hit his stomach," he said.
In the ensuing gun battle, one of the officers' rounds hit Martinez in the leg. He was arrested at 64 Baruch Drive, where he resides, and taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment, police said.
A 9mm Taurus handgun was recovered in a nearby trash compacter, police said. Martinez, whose injury was not life-threatening, was not immediately charged.
The officers were examined at Beth Israel Hospital.
Kelly visited the officers at Police Service Area 4, where the officers are assigned, shortly after the shootout, police said.
"It was a very close call for Officer Richards," he said in a statement. "The magazine may have well saved his life."