updated 12/31/2006 1:20:15 AM ET 2006-12-31T06:20:15

The escape of two masked men making their getaway from a Queens bank disintegrated into a bloody gunfight Saturday when they tried to hijack a car from an off-duty policeman.

Officer John Lopez was shot once in the thigh after he leaped from his car and chased the men down a busy city street but he returned fire and seriously wounded his attacker, police said.

The suspect was hospitalized in critical condition with gunshot wounds to his abdomen and leg. His alleged accomplice was captured by officers who found him hiding underneath a parked car with a bag of money at his side.

“Today, another one of our finest has gone beyond the call of duty,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after visiting Lopez in the hospital. “These career criminals ran into the wrong guy, it turns out.”

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the alleged robbers were repeat felons believed to be responsible for two other bank heists in the same neighborhood this month.

The suspects were identified as Joseph Pennington and Dion Mines. The were under police guard Saturday and authorities were not sure if they had attorneys.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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