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NYPD cop from Patchogue saved by vest

Officer Brian Groves, in an undated photo provided

Officer Brian Groves, in an undated photo provided by the New York City Police Department. Groves was saved by his bulletproof vest when he was shot early July 5, 2012, while chasing a suspect in the stairwell of a Lower East Side housing project in New York, according to police. Credit: AP/NYPD

An NYPD officer remained hospitalized Thursday after he was struck by a single bullet that nearly penetrated his protective vest during a confrontation with a gunman in a Manhattan housing project, officials said.

Officer Brian Groves, 30, was under observation at Bellevue Hospital Center with bruising around his heart caused by the bullet's impact. A Patchogue resident, Groves is married with two children, one 2 weeks old, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference.

As of late Thursday, a suspect was still being sought in the 3:40 a.m. shooting, which took place at the Seward Park Extension, a two-tower, 23-story Lower East Side housing project that is home to nearly 900 residents.

Police released a sketch of the suspected gunman, who was described by investigators as being in his 20s, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, with braided hair, wearing red basketball shorts with beige piping and a black shirt.

"Thank God for the bulletproof vest. Because of the vest, his children will see their father soon and will be able to grow up with their father, who loves them," Bloomberg said.

Police spokesman Paul Browne later said that Groves, a seven-year veteran assigned to the housing command, was wearing the highest level of protective vest normally worn by patrol officers. The fact that the suspect fired from about 8 feet away contributed to the nearly full penetration of the vest, Browne said.

"Almost all the way through," he said.

Speaking at a news conference at Bellevue along with Bloomberg, police Commissioner Ray Kelly displayed the officer's vest and a fragment of the bullet.

At Grove's Patchogue home, a woman who didn't want to identify herself said, "He's OK . . . We'd like to spend time together as a family."

According to Kelly, Groves and his partner, Eric Corniel, were carrying out a routine NYPD "vertical patrol," descending from the top floor of one of the Seward project's towers, which together have 359 apartments.

The police had previously received complaints of drug trafficking, noise and disorderly activity in the stairwells, but there had been no reported violent crimes so far this year, said Browne.

In a briefing with reporters, Browne said that Groves began his descent through one staircase while Corniel went down another. As Groves opened the door to the 22nd floor, he came upon an unidentified man with a handgun and yelled out "gun," Browne said.

The gunman fled down the stairwell with the officers in pursuit. Between the 18th and 19th floors, the suspect turned and fired one shot at Groves, according to Browne. Groves fired four rounds in return, police said.

It was unclear if the suspect was hit because police didn't find any blood trails, according to Browne. Groves wasn't aware he was struck in the chest until he got to the 15th floor, Browne added. The gunman fired with a .32-caliber or .25-caliber silver revolver, police said.

Groves is the ninth NYPD officer shot this year, Kelly said.

Bloomberg used the news conference to blast Congress for not passing stricter gun control laws and the courts for recent decisions that have overturned a couple of police stop and frisk searches.

With Maria Alvarez,

Joseph Mallia

and Marina Villeneuve

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