A New York City cop became the NYPD’s first line-of-duty shooting victim of the new year on January 26, 2021. Thirty-one-year-old police officer Daniel Vargas was shot in his lower back, below his bullet resistant vest, while chasing an armed suspect in the Soundview section of The Bronx. Vargas was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center by fellow cops and has since been released. The New York Post reported Vargas is expected to make a full recovery.
Officer Vargas, a six-year NYPD veteran, is assigned to the department’s Gun Violence Suppression Division. His wounding comes amid a dramatic surge in gun arrests that, according to the New York Daily News, number 417 in January, a 75% increase over the same period in 2020.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, commenting on the NYPD’s gun suppression efforts said, “They are the best at what they do, they are assigned to the streets throughout New York City for one very simple reason: to keep you safe. And they do an excellent job doing it.” During a recent New York City Police Foundation webinar, Shea offered his concern of the proliferation of guns on the streets saying, “I would argue we’re making far too many gun arrests. We shouldn’t have to. You really must ask yourself, and I think more people need to start asking this, what the hell is going on with firearms in New York City this year? What has changed?”
The trend seems to be up. The New York Daily News reported 4,280 gun arrests in 2020, a 29 per cent increase in relation to the 3,299 gun arrests in 2019. The News further reported 1,531 shooting incidents in 2020 resulting in 1,868 people shot.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York (NYC PBA), the union representing New York City police officers, said, “We have to stop acting like we’re trying to re-invent the wheel, policing is simple. Good guys and bad guys. We’re the good guys that go after the bad guys.” Lynch explained that New York City is more interested in initiatives that try to build relationships with would be criminals to deter violence. He indicated such initiatives do not work.
New York City Detectives’ Endowment Association president Paul DiGiacomo issued a statement stating, “A cop shot and injured tonight in The Bronx as he and fellow officers searched for armed criminals should be the wake-up call our elected officials need to start backing the police.”
The suspect, who was arrested, is a 24-year-old male Bronx resident with prior arrests in New York City and New Jersey according to WABC News. WABC reported the suspect was charged with attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property.