In NYPD's Craig Bier shooting, cops name suspect

A handout photo of John Thomas, the suspected A handout photo of John Thomas, the suspected shooter of Sgt. Craig Bier, a 15-year NYPD veteran from Hicksville who was shot in South Jamaica, Queens. Photo Credit: NYPD

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Police Thursday night were searching for a Queens man they said shot and wounded a decorated 15-year NYPD veteran from Hicksville who was on anti-gang patrol.

John Thomas, 24, shot Sgt. Craig Bier, 44, in the legs Wednesday, police said, after a late-night confrontation with the officer in Jamaica, just south of York College.

Thomas has been arrested in the past on drug and weapons possession charges, according to police.

Bier is the son of a retired NYPD officer who was shot and wounded in the line of duty, his mother, Betty, said Thursday. The officer remained at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center Thursday night and was expected to recover, police said.

After the shooting, police recovered a 9 mm Ruger handgun at the scene -- the same type of weapon used in the December killing of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, 47, of West Babylon.

Both Rugers were purchased in Virginia, city officials said Thursday, prompting Mayor Michael Bloomberg to again demand tighter gun control laws nationwide during a news conference at the hospital with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

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Bloomberg has repeated his push for stronger handgun laws in recent weeks as gunmen in Colorado and Wisconsin opened fire, killing and wounding dozens in separate cases.

Wednesday's shooting was the 10th of an NYPD officer this year, officials said. In 2011, there were four, according to city officials.

"Here we are once again at a hospital," Bloomberg said at the news conference. "Another night, and another shooting of one of our finest."

Stricter gun laws could have prevented the latest NYPD shooting, Bloomberg said.

"I think it's fair to say we are still waiting for the leaders of our country and those who want to be the leaders of our country to stand up and tell us what they're going to do about this," Bloomberg said.

A bullet from the handgun used to shoot Craig Bier went through one leg and struck the other, said Betty Bier, who lives with her son in Hicksville. She said despite his injuries, her son was upbeat and even cracked a few jokes from his hospital bed.

Craig Bier was shot about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, Kelly said, after he and his partner, Det. Nicholas Romano, attempted to stop Thomas, who was riding a bicycle.

The officers were on patrol in an unmarked van on 107th Avenue, Kelly said. Thomas abandoned the bike and fled down a narrow alley alongside a tall chain-link fence near an enclosed parking lot. Bier gave chase, Kelly said.

"It's believed the suspect climbed the fence and jumped onto the roof of a white van that was parked in a lot in an attempt to escape onto 107th Avenue," Kelly said.

When Bier ran back to 107th Avenue to try to block Thomas' escape, Kelly said, he and Thomas exchanged gunfire.

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Betty Bier said news of the gunfight, and that her son had been wounded, was history repeating itself. In 1971, her then-husband, Craig Bier's father, survived a gunshot to the face while working as an NYPD officer in Times Square.

"I used to live with a cop and you worry all the time about getting the call," she said. "Now I have to worry about my son."

Betty Bier said her son grew up in Hicksville and graduated from Chaminade High School. He attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a year before graduating from Stony Brook University. He has a 4-year-old son, she said.

NYPD officials said Craig Bier has a total of 65 NYPD medals, 14 for meritorious police duty.

He joined the department in 1997, working in the 75th Precinct in high-crime East New York, Brooklyn.

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He was promoted to sergeant in 2005 and moved to the 109th precinct in Flushing, Queens.

With Alison Barnwell,

Gary Dymski, John Valenti and Ellen Yan

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