BRONX, N.Y. — Police fatally shot a man after he shot an NYPD officer in the wrist during a pursuit in the Bronx Tuesday night, authorities said.
Officers patrolling the Claremont section of the Bronx in an unmarked vehicle around 10:45 p.m. spotted a suspect, identified as 25-year-old Rameek Smith, near Bathgate Avenue and Claremont Parkway and approached him, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said at a news briefing.
Smith fled on foot and the officers pursued him, according to Essig. Following a brief chase, Smith allegedly turned and fired twice at the officers. Police returned gunfire, and NYPD Officer Dennis Vargas was struck once in the wrist, officials said.
Smith suffered a gunshot wound to the head, officials said. He was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he later died, according to officials.
Vargas was transported to NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, where he was treated and released overnight, officials said.
Essig noted that a 9mm Glock was recovered at the scene, and was determined to have been stolen from Virginia.
Speaking at a City Council budget hearing Wednesday morning, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Smith was convicted for a robbery pattern in 2016 and released on five years probation.
During an early morning press conference, Mayor Eric Adams said Smith had an "extensive arrest history." He was most recently arrested in March 2020 after an illegal firearm was discovered on his person when he jumped a subway turnstile, Adams said.
Smith had pleaded guilty in connection with the incident in 2021, but his court date was repeatedly rescheduled, according to Adams.
The mayor pointed to the previous arrest as a prime example as to why he has directed so much attention to the city’s subways.
“People want to ask why am I cracking down on fare evasions. That’s why. People want to ask why we’ve conducted 300,000 station inspections. That’s why,” Adams said. “This is what we are up against.”
The mayor said that the city is divided on how to handle crime, but stressed that he is “tired” of hearing complaints against police officers “who are doing their job.” He also stressed that the number of shootings that the NYPD is responding to every night is “despicable.”
“New Yorkers deserve better,” Adams said.
The mayor said he plans to meet with Sewell and will announce Wednesday “actions we think need to be taken to deal with this real issue that we are facing.”
In a statement released Wednesday, The Legal Aid Society, which had been representing Smith, said he had “complied with all of his obligations, attending every court appearance and consistently participating in programming to address his needs” since he was released from custody following his March 2020 arrest.
“Rameek Smith was a father and son. His tragic and untimely killing is devastating,” the organization said. “If anything, Mr. Smith’s case underscores the need for early intervention, access to services and community-based support.”
The Legal Aid Society also spoke out against what it described as Adams’ “unconscionable fear-mongering about last night’s killing.”
“In the end, a young man, struggling with multiple ailments, had his life cut short, and the public should not lose sight of that regardless of incendiary comments from City Hall,” it added.