A decorated NYPD officer from Hicksville who was shot in the legs while on anti-gang patrol earlier this week left the hospital Friday with his badge around his neck and a warning for the gunman still at large: "We'll get you soon."
Sgt. Craig Bier, 44, left Jamaica Hospital Medical Center to salutes, applause and cheers from about 100 fellow officers, many of them in dress uniforms.
Bier was pushed in a wheelchair, though a police spokesman said the 15-year veteran was able to stand on his own.
He smiled and waved, wearing a ball cap backward, a T-shirt and shorts. The only visible sign of injury was a bandage wrapped around his right knee.
"I feel great, thank you," Bier told Newsday.
The officer was flanked by his mother, Betty Bier, and his father, retired NYPD Det. Richard Bier, who in 1971 was also shot in the line of duty.
Bagpipers played "The Minstrel Boy," which police pipe band member Sgt. Timmy O'Caoilte described as a "traditional Celtic warrior song."
During a confrontation with a suspect late Wednesday in Queens, a bullet went through one of Bier's legs and either the same bullet or a second one lodged in his other leg, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday during his regular appearance on WOR / 710 AM.
"It could have been so much worse," Bloomberg said. "He could have been dead."
Police on Friday night were searching for the suspect -- John Thomas, 24, of Jamaica, Queens. He has a criminal history that includes drug and weapons charges dating back to 2002, police said.
Bier, a father of a 4-year-old son and who has earned 65 NYPD medals, is the 10th New York City police officer to be shot this year. Seven of the 10 are Long Islanders.
Police said Bier is expected to fully recover from his wounds.
His uncle, Rick Sepulveda, of Hicksville, said Bier is relying on his toughness to deal with the pain.
"If he was in the service, he'd be a SEAL," Sepulveda said. "The police department could use hundreds more like him."
At the hospital, Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Bier's union, echoed Bloomberg's call to curb gun violence nationally.
"It's an outrage that cops are being shot across the country," Mullins said. "It's an outrage that little children are being shot and killed in movie theaters when you go and try to spend a night with your family. It's not just about guns -- it's about a breakdown of society."
He had a message for the man who shot Bier: "Surrender. We will get you."
Bier is to be honored next month as one of the union's "sergeants of the year," Sergeants Benevolent Association spokesman Bob Mladinich said.
Bier and his partner were patrolling South Jamaica in an unmarked van Wednesday night when they attempted to stop Thomas, police said. Thomas fled down an alley, climbed a fence and jumped onto a van, police said.
Bier, who was not wearing a uniform, tried to block Thomas' escape on 107th Avenue, where the pair exchanged gunfire, police said.
With Marina Villeneuve