June 24, 2012
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx this morning:
“Good morning. Here we are at St Barnabas Medical Center in the Bronx with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Chief of Patrol James Hall, Chief of Internal Affairs Charles Campisi, Chief of Bronx Detectives Robert Boyce and Dr. Eli Kleinman, the NYPD’s Chief Surgeon. We’re also joined by Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway and Dr. Ernest Patti from St. Barnabas.
“This morning, another of our brave officers, Police Officer Nelson Vergara, was shot. The Commissioner and I just visited with the Officer and his wife Maria, they have two young children.
“You should know that Police Officer Vergara is a 12 year veteran of the NYPD, who is currently assigned to the 33rd Precinct in Washington Heights in the northern end of Manhattan. He, like our Commissioner, is also a Marine. Officer Vergara twice took leave from the NYPD for tours defending our liberty in Iraq.
“Early this morning, Police Officer Vergara was returning to his home in the University Heights Section of the Bronx. As he approached, a group began shouting at Officer Vergara and one of the individuals threw a bottle at him. He approached them and simultaneously a man pulled up in a vehicle and stepped out of the car. Officer Vergara identified himself as a Police Officer and the individual drew a weapon and opened fire.
“Officer Vergara returned fire and in the exchange he was struck twice, once in the shoulder and once in the leg. He is, thank God, in stable condition. Three of suspects were struck in the exchange and are currently in custody.
“Police Commissioner Kelly will give more details on this incident in few minutes, but it’s no secret that the last four years have been one of the four safest in the City’s history, and crime is again down in both the 33rd Precinct where Officer Vergara works and the 46th Precinct here in the Bronx, where Officer Vergara lives and this morning’s incident occurred.
“Since we came into office – when crime was already at historic low levels in New York City, major crimes are down more than 26 percent in the 33 in Washington Heights in Manhattan, and about 44 percent in the 46 in University Heights in the Bronx.
“That’s due to a lot of factors, including our partners in law enforcement. But I think it’s fair to say the chief reason is the vigilance, the dedication, the training and the professionalism of the men and women of the NYPD.
“And we saw that eternal vigilance in action again this morning, when an off-duty officer acted to clean up crime in his neighborhood and was fired on for his efforts. Ray?
“Before we take your questions: here we are, another morning, another hospital, another member of the NYPD shot in the line of duty.
“The gains that the NYPD and its partners have made against crime in our city really are superhuman. But they are undermined – constantly, consistently, and sometimes fatally – by illegal guns on our streets.
“Today, the news is not tragic. Because of the work, and perhaps because of the grace of God, we’ve not lost a member of the NYPD to gun violence this year.
“Every four years, we get together as a nation to re-plot the path that we should follow as a people. It’s decided in campaign stops, in debates, and most importantly in the voting booth. It’s front page news, and every day it will be for the next four months. Shootings like this, sadly, no longer seem to matter to the national campaigns.
“But what we will do to get guns out the hands of criminals, where they’re used against our parent and our children, and in this case a police officer and Marine, is far more important than most of the gaffe-gates and other ridiculousness that define our political dialogue.
“Our police officers deserve more than our prayers. They deserve our solemn commitment to take action against illegal guns. God may spare a life, but only Washington can solve this problem.
“We’ll now take your questions.”
Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna