Flanked by his wife, family members and another extended family of more than 150 officers, NYPD Officer Ricardo Ramirez walked out of a Manhattan hospital on crutches Friday morning and went home to Islip for Christmas.
Wearing a Jets jersey with No. 75 - the number for his Brooklyn station house - Ramirez, 29, smiled as bagpipe music serenaded him after spending almost two months recovering from a wound he suffered during a gun battle in Brooklyn in late October.
Family members said his release from the hospital Friday was nothing short of a holiday miracle.
"To see him walk out today is truly a miracle," said brother-in-law Michael Fuentes of Medford.
Officials said Elijah Foster-Bey, 17, of Port Washington, was stopped by Ramirez and his partners while on anti-crime patrol when Foster-Bey was riding a bicycle in East New York. According to police, Foster-Bey ran away from the officers, and then while on the third-floor stairway of a building at 454 Bradford St., started shooting, wounding Ramirez twice in his upper right leg and damaging the femoral artery. A third round struck Ramirez's protective vest. The officers fired back 11 times, wounding Foster-Bey in his leg.
Investigators said Foster-Bey told them after he was arrested that he ran away from the officers because he was carrying a weapon. Police recovered a .32-caliber gun from Foster-Bey, who also is charged with weapon possession. A pretrial court appearance at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn is set for Jan. 7. Foster-Bey could not be reached for comment Friday.
After the shooting, both Ramirez, a four-year veteran of the force, and Foster-Bey were taken to Kings County Hospital Center and The Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center.
"There were some shaky moments there when doctors didn't know how severe his injuries were and questions that he might lose his leg," Fuentes said Friday outside NYU Medical Center, where Ramirez was treated and underwent rehabilitation.
The rank and file of uniformed blue at the hospital to support Ramirez was also a protest against Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach, who released Foster-Bey on $100,000 bail despite a request by prosecutors from the Brooklyn district attorney's office that the suspect be held without bail.
Reached for comment Friday evening, Reichbach said the suspect was not considered a flight risk at the time of his arraignment. "Bail is not a punishment," Reichbach said. "It is a guarantee that a person will return to trial. . . . When they are convicted, then they are punished."
But the police union was not happy.
"This is a disturbing incident," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association. "The judge was wrong."
While the suspect was "home having Thanksgiving turkey, Officer Ramirez was fighting for his life," Lynch said.
Dr. Neil Cayne said getting better during his recovery and the hope of going home kept Ramirez going through painful and tedious rehabilitation sessions.
"All he wanted was to just get home for the holidays, to be with his family," Cayne said.
A niece, Alyssa Fuentes, said having her uncle back is a wonderful Christmas gift. "This is the best Christmas for the whole family," Alyssa said.