Bagpipes played as rookie NYPD Officer Patrick Espeut eased himself out of a wheelchair while being released Friday from a Bronx hospital — less than 24 hours after being shot in the face.
Espeut, a two-year officer with the 40th Precinct in the Bronx, waved at the roughly 100 uniformed officers standing and applauding outside Lincoln Medical Center.
“Thank you very much,” said Espeut, 29, a Brewster resident, who was shot along with his partner Thursday night in a stairwell of a Bronx housing complex.
A high-ranked NYPD source said the bullet entered Espeut’s nose, traveled along the sinus cavity and exited by his ear.
Espeut’s partner, Diara Cruz, 24, of the Bronx, also a two-year rookie, was shot below her vest in the abdomen. The NYPD source said she was being evaluated to determine whether the bullet should be removed.
Her father, Guillermo Cruz, 53, said: “Nobody wants that to happen to a loved one. When it happens, it brings us together.”
The officers, assigned to the housing bureau, were patrolling with a third officer at Melrose Houses on East 156th Street when they encountered two men in the sixth-floor stairwell, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said.
One man pulled out a gun, fired and ran to a seventh-floor apartment, where he fatally shot himself, police said.
A .32-caliber semi-automatic handgun and a shotgun were found in the apartment, the NYPD said.
Police said “several individuals” had been taken to the 40th Precinct in the investigation — and the second suspect involved in the initial confrontation was in custody. The NYPD has not released the identity of either of the suspects.
In the moments after the shooting, dozens of officers rushed to the scene.
“I was waiting for the elevator when I heard three shots,” said resident Katherine Martinez, 28. “I thought trouble, trouble, trouble.”
She said she looked outside her apartment and saw one cop with his hand on his head, which was gushing blood.
Espeut is a technical sergeant in the public affairs section of the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in upstate Newburgh, military officials said.
Col. Timothy LaBarge, commander of the 105th Airlift Wing, said Espeut is “a profoundly professional airman . . . so it does not surprise us at all that he conducted himself with courage and distinction in his duties with the NYPD.”
Calvin Guzman, 22, a resident of the complex, said he was pleased the officers will recover.
“The police are just doing their job and keeping us safe. There’s no reason anyone should shoot at them.”
With Maria Alvarez and Anthony M. DeStefano