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Cop shot during confrontation at Bronx housing project

An unemployed gun-wielding Bronx man was shot dead Monday during a confrontation at a city housing project that also left one police officer in critical condition, officials said.

The wounded officer, Robert Salerno, 23, was hit twice in his lower abdomen just below his protective vest, which also absorbed another bullet fired by the gunman, Santiago Urena, 57, according to investigators.

Urena fired four of the five rounds in his .38-caliber handgun at the officers, police said.

Salerno, who lives in Westchester County and is the first NYPD officer wounded in the line of duty this year, was pulled out of the apartment in the Concourse Village area by fellow police officers and rushed to Lincoln Hospital. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a hospital news conference that Salerno was expected to recover from his injuries.

The brief, violent altercation began shortly after noon when police got a call from a female home health aide at 3073 Park Ave. about a man with a gun, Kelly said. When police arrived in the building lobby, the woman told them the armed man had smacked her during an argument while she was taking care of his 96-year-old mother, Kelly said.

A law enforcement official who didn't want to be named said the suspect was angry that the home health aide was on the telephone talking to her husband in the Dominican Republic, slapped her and threatened her with a gun.

The suspect's brother, Demetrio, also met police in the lobby and told them his brother was in one of the second-floor apartment bedrooms, said police spokesman Paul Browne.

Salerno entered the apartment with three other officers and after opening the door of the bedroom was met with gunfire from Urena, Browne said. Police fired 21 shots in return, with Salerno shooting 16 times, Browne said.

Urena, an out-of-work food industry employee, was found dead, lying face down in the bedroom with one gunshot wound to the head, said Browne, adding that was unclear late Monday if that injury had been self-inflicted or resulted from police gunfire.

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