- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - One of two New York City police officers who was shot and wounded in the stairwell of a public housing project was released from the hospital Friday to cheers from fellow officers.

Officer Patrick Espeut, 29, was shot in the cheek. He was wheeled out through a throng of police including Commissioner William Bratton before standing up and waving. Officer Diara Cruz, 24, struck in the torso, remained hospitalized in stable condition, police said.

The gunman killed himself after opening fire, police said.

The two officers and another were on the sixth floor of the Melrose Houses complex in the Bronx on Thursday night when police said they encountered two people and asked for identification. Malik Chavis, 23, said he needed to get his ID and was walking with police to an apartment on the seventh floor when he turned, pulled a gun and fired twice, police said. Two officers returned three shots total.

Chavis ran into the apartment and barricaded himself, saying he had just shot a cop and didn’t want to go back to jail, witnesses told police. He had 16 prior arrests for crimes including attempted robbery, weapon possession and various drug crimes, and there was an open warrant for criminal possession of controlled substance, according to police reports.

He served three years for a robbery charge and violated parole twice, according to state correction records. Police said he apparently shot himself in the head with the same weapon he used to fire at the officers.

The .32-caliber handgun had been purchased legally in Tennessee in 2010 and was never reported missing, according to police reports. The handgun and a shotgun were found inside the apartment, police said.

The second person who encountered the officers in the stairwell was taken into custody, and three people in the apartment were questioned, but police said no arrests have been made.

The shooting happened about 5 miles from where Mayor Bill de Blasio was delivering his State of the City address Thursday night, much of which was dedicated to praising the work of police officers.

De Blasio, a Democrat, was told about the shooting as he finished his speech and left the stage. He met with the family of one of the officers at the hospital.

“Our brave officers were doing their jobs tonight in our public housing on patrol keeping residents safe,” de Blasio said. “Both officers are alert and communicating, and we are praying for the best here.”

The officers are assigned to the Housing Bureau and have been on the force for about two years. They were shot while they were conducting a vertical patrol, where officers start in the lobby of a public housing project and walk the stairwells up to the roof and back down.

In January, a police officer responding to a large street fight in the Bronx was shot in an ankle. And in October, a police officer responding to a report of shots fired and a bicycle stolen at gunpoint in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood was killed.

There was no number listed at the address for Chavis, or any of his prior addresses.

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