Police nabbed a fugitive teen gang member from Freeport after he showed up at the hospital on New Year's Day to visit the convalescing rival he'd shot, authorities said Wednesday.

The arrest of Gabriel Tavares, 18, of Smith Street, came at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, nearly three weeks after the Dec. 12 shooting, which left the victim, 17, with thigh and leg wounds, according to court papers.

Within hours of the shooting, a witness had identified Tavares through photographs, but police learned on Tuesday about the hospital visit.

"We came and got him," a Nassau police spokeswoman said.

Authorities didn't say why he was trying to visit his victim, whom he knows by the nickname "Chucky."

Wednesday, Tavares made his first appearance. He was ordered jailed on $100,000 cash or $50,000 bond. Charges include felony assault and criminal use of a firearm.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

His sister, who asked that her name not be published, said her brother is a member of the Zulu gang. She said he was working toward a GED and has a 3-month-old son.

"It's not even like him at all to do something like this," she said. "It's not in his character."

The shooting may have been self-defense, his attorney Julia Surette told Judge David Goodsell of First District Court.

According to Tavares' statement to police, the dispute began at Angelo's Deli on Merrick Road in Freeport. He'd been eating a sandwich when a friend said Trinitario/Patria gang members had been following him. "Chucky" then walked in, "saying 'Patria' and throwing up Trini hand signs," the statement says. Tavares' crew followed "Chucky" outside and spotted other rivals, the statement says.