NEW YORK — An emotionally disturbed man being escorted in handcuffs by the police today ripped a gun from an officer’s holster outside Harlem Hospital Center and shot a second officer in his left foot, the authorities said.
The officer struck by the bullet, Fausto Gomez of the 25th Precinct in East Harlem, was treated at the hospital and released, the police said. The man, identified as Guiteau Idore, 42, was taken to Metropolitan Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation.
During a close-quarter struggle on the ramp leading into the hospital around 5:30 a.m., Idore managed to pull a 9-millimeter service weapon from the holster of Officer John Chiodi and fire two shots, striking Gomez once.
“It’s very hard to do, it’s unusual, but it happened,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. Holsters worn by police officers have a mechanism that makes it difficult for someone other than the officer to remove the gun.
After the gun went off, the three men tumbled to the ground, with Idore — hands cuffed behind his back — still gripping the weapon.
Brendon Hernandez, a paramedic who traveled with the man and the officers to the hospital, saw the gun and managed to wrest it from Idore. His actions brought praise from Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly during a news conference at the hospital.
“I understand Mr. Hernandez has aspirations of becoming a New York City police officer,” Kelly said. “He certainly demonstrated today that he has what it takes.”
The Police Department responds to tens of thousands of calls a year related to people described as emotionally disturbed. Such calls, in some instances, can turn violent.
It was in the course of escorting a man to the hospital in East Harlem for psychiatric evaluation in April 2012 that Detective Eder Loor, then a patrol officer, was stabbed in the head. The man, who had concealed a knife, drove the blade through the officer’s temple and into his brain. Detective Loor survived, leading his neurosurgeon to call him “the luckiest unlucky man.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, standing with Kelly at the hospital today, said the chaotic scene was “another example, I think, of the dangers of our officers face every day and the incredible restraint that they demonstrate.”
The episode began around 4:55 a.m. when Gomez, 40, and Chiodi, 42, responded to a call of a man hurling bottles near Lexington Avenue and 117th Street. The officers took Idore into custody, cuffing his hands behind his back and placing him in an ambulance, Browne said.
The ride to the hospital was uneventful, with Chiodi and Hernandez in the ambulance and Gomez following behind in a patrol car.
But as they arrived at the 135th Street entrance to the hospital, Idore tried to flee. The two officers grabbed him and began escorting him up the ramp to the hospital.
“Then, as they reached the top of the ramp, the individual began to struggle again,” Kelly said. “He managed somehow to remove Officer Chiodi’s service weapon and fire that weapon two times, striking Officer Gomez one time in his left foot, a graze wound.”
It was at that point, Kelly said, that Hernandez sprung to action, pouncing on the weapon and pulling it from Idore.
“He racked it, to make it safe,” Kelly said. “He did an outstanding job.”