WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan -- Justin Vartanian, the NYPD officer injured in a shootout on Thursday in Washington Heights, is now home, recovering from the gunshot wound that police say was inflicted by a Trinitarios gang member who they shot and killed after he opened fire.
Officer Vartanian walked out of St. Luke's Mt. Sinai Hospital in Morningside Heights with his wife, Meghan, late Friday morning. More than 100 officers, including Chief of Department Terence Monahan, surrounded them, applauding, as bagpipes and drums played.
It was a joyous scene for the officer who'd taken a bullet to his right armpit, in sharp contrast to the scene on Thursday afternoon in a small parking lot sandwiched between two buildings on Broadway, between 187th and 188th Streets.
That's where Officer Vartanian, responding to a call of a man brandishing a gun, showed up just before 4:30 p.m. The man, now identified by the NYPD as Luis Leizado, 42, shot at Vartanian at least three times, according to witnesses.
Bulletholes in one of the cars left in the parking lot crime scene until late Friday afternoon show where Vartanian and fellow officers shot back, killing Leizado.
An SUV belonging to local residents Nancy Robillard and Vincent Marquardt is the vehicle that suspect Leizado hid behind during the shootout.
"It's been a very strange couple days," Marquardt told PIX11 News, as he and Robillard, his wife, waited to retrieve their SUV. The lot where it was parked remained cordoned off as a crime scene from Thursday afternoon to late Friday afternoon, a full 24 hours.
"They asked us to sign a release to remove the bullet" from their car, said Robillard.
Regarding the whole shootout, Robillard said, "It's disturbing, yeah. But it could happen anywhere."
This time, it happened at the parking lot about three blocks north of the NYPD's 34th precinct. As the department's own crime statistics make clear, crime is generally lower in the precinct over the last few years, with one exception. Year to year, shootings are up 500 percent, from one shooting at this time last year, to six this year.
Residents and police alike said that they're grateful that this latest shooting resulted in an officer surviving.