A police officer responding to a violent domestic dispute on a Queens street was shot Sunday morning during a struggle with an ex-con, cops said.
Officer Rodney Lewis, 40, was expected to survive though the bullet missed his protective vest entirely, passing through its armhole before striking the cops' underarm, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
But the bullet only hit muscle, sparing Lewis' life, Kelly said.
"He wanted to be a cop all his life," said Mayor Bloomberg, who stood with Kelly at a press conference at Wyckoff Hospital and added that the injured officer was already anxious to get back to work.
Lewis and his partner Mark Bublin, who are both assigned to the 104th Precinct, rushed to Menahan St. in Ridgewood just before 5 a.m., police said.
They were responding to a 911 call made by Hazel Campana, a transgendered woman who had returned home from a party a short time earlier with her boyfriend Carlos, police sources said.
They began to squabble, and Campana - who police sources said used to be named Robert Campana - accused Carlos of stealing from her purse.
Carlos, who sports a teardrop tattoo under his eye, then hit Campana, who called police and a friend, who in turn called the victim's ex-boyfriend, Edwin Santana.
Santana, who was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 and is wanted on a current parole violation, confronted Campana and Carlos on the sidewalk minutes later, police said.
"Santana shows up to defend her honor," a police source said.
A second 911 call was then made, describing "a bald man with a gun," according to sources. Officers Lewis and Bublin spotted Santana, who is bald, with a bulge in his jacket and ordered him to stop but the ex-con refused, Kelly said.
The cops struggled with Santana and tried to remove an old 32-caliber handgun from his waistband, said Kelly, who later displayed the 60-year-old weapon.
The weapon was knocked loose, and a single round was discharged when it hit the pavement, striking Lewis under his left arm, Kelly said.
Though he was struck, Lewis still managed to help his partner subdue Santana. He then said, "I'm shot," and his colleagues rushed him to the hospital.
Jose Moran, 32, heard the commotion while stocking shelves at a nearby bodega.
"I heard shots and came upstairs," said Moran. "I saw maybe six police officers carrying another one into a police car and they drove away."
Lewis, who is married, was conscious when colleagues put him in a squad car and rushed him to Wyckoff Hospital. He will be moved later today to New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center.
Lewis joined the NYPD four-and-a-half years ago after he spent two years with the Corrections Department. Before that, he laid floors for a living, Kelly said.
Santana, 33, was arrested at the scene and charges against him are pending, police said. Campana's current boyfriend - who may also have had a weapon - has not yet been located, police said.