Cop hurt in Queens shooting 'on the mend'

NYPD Sgt. Craig Bier, of Hicksville, was shot

NYPD Sgt. Craig Bier, of Hicksville, was shot in both legs Aug. 8 in Jamaica, Queens, police said. (Credit: Handout)

The NYPD sergeant from Hicksville shot in both legs while patrolling in Queens was recovering Saturday at a secure location, his uncle said, as police continued to hunt for the gunman.

"He's in some pain" but "solid as a rock" emotionally, said Sgt. Craig Bier's uncle, Rick Sepulveda, 65, of Hicksville. "He's on the mend."

Bier, 44, and his partner, Det. Nick Romano, of West Hempstead, were patrolling South Jamaica in an unmarked van Wednesday night when they attempted to stop John Thomas, 24, of Jamaica, Queens, who was acting suspiciously, police said. Thomas ran down an alley, climbed a fence and jumped onto a van, police said.

Bier, who was plainclothes, tried to block Thomas' escape on 107th Avenue, where the pair exchanged gunfire and Bier was struck, police said. He was released from the hospital Friday.

Police on Saturday were still searching for Thomas, who has a criminal history that includes drug and weapons charges. Police said he may have been wounded in the shootout.

Bill Black, who identified himself as Thomas' uncle, said Thomas had called relatives in Pennsylvania to ask for help after the shooting.

"Nobody's going to help him now, so he needs to just turn himself in before he gets himself killed," said Black, 48, reached by phone in Harrisburg, Pa. "The police have talked to everybody [in the family]. We feel bad for the officer who got shot."

"He's alive, so we don't want John to die on the run," Black added. "If he goes to jail, it's better than dying."

The gunman who shot the last NYPD officer wounded on duty also remains on the loose. Officer Brian Groves, 30, Patchogue, was saved by his bullet-resistant vest in a July 5 shooting at a Lower East Side housing project.

Groves fired four times at the suspect, but investigators are not certain whether the still-unidentified assailant was hit.

There is a $32,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of both Thomas and the gunman who shot Groves.

Bier, a father of a 4-year-old son and who has earned 65 NYPD medals, is the 10th NYPD officer to be shot this year. Seven of the 10 officers shot are Long Islanders.

The anti-gang unit sergeant is expected to make a full recovery.

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