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5 cops hurt in N.J. shootout; 2 suspects dead

Five police officers were shot — two of them critically wounded — and two suspects killed in a running gunfight in New Jersey's second-largest city.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Five police officers were shot — two of them critically wounded — in a running gunfight Thursday morning that began during a police stakeout of two armed robbery suspects in New Jersey's second-largest city.

Both suspects were killed in the shootout, which began on the street about 5 a.m. and ended when SWAT officers fought their way into an apartment where the man and woman had taken cover. The assaulting officers were met by shotgun blasts that ripped through the apartment building's walls and doors.

One of the suspects had "some kind of automatic shotgun," Mayor Jerramiah Healy said. Residents of the complex said they awoke to the sounds of gunfire and police running down their halls.

Marlon Harrison said gunshots echoed off the alley wall outside his second-floor apartment window.

"It was like the Army out there," Harrison said.

Doctors at Jersey City Medical Center said the most seriously injured officer was in full cardiac arrest, with no signs of life, when he arrived for treatment. Doctors had to bring him back to life "five or six times" before they could stabilize him, he said.

Dr. Bruno Molino, the chief of trauma at Jersey City Medical Center, said the officer received a shotgun blast to the left side of his face and will require reconstructive surgery to repair his jaw, sinus and the area below his eye.

Police investigate the scene of a shooting on Reed Street in Jersey City on Thursday July 16, 2009. Five Jersey City police officers were shot, two critically wounded in an early morning shootout in New Jersey's second-largest city. Two suspects were also killed in the shootout, which stemmed from police surveillance of two armed robbery suspects in Jersey City, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)Rich Schultz / FR27227 AP

Molino said his team removed two "foreign objects" from the neck of the second officer. He said the next 24 to 48 hours are pivotal for the survival of both men, who have been sedated and are in critical but stable condition

"These officers are extremely lucky to be alive," said Molino, 37. "We're very fortunate to be discussing this at all."

The suspects were being sought in connection with an armed robbery last month in which they allegedly shot a man in the abdomen with the same shotgun. Healy said the duo was suspected of similar criminal activity in South Carolina.

Authorities said that the woman did not have a firearm, but that her partner wielded his weapon with deadly intent, sending residents scrambling for cover in a violent neighborhood known for illegal drug sales.

"This individual came fully ready to go to war with us," said Police Chief Tom Comey. "This is a gun meant for nothing other than to hunt a man."

A detective from the Hudson County Prosecutors Office examines a pair of pants on Reed Street in Jersey City on Thursday July 16, 2009. Five Jersey City police officers were shot, two critically wounded in an early morning shootout in New Jersey's second-largest city. Two suspects were also killed in the shootout, which stemmed from police surveillance of two armed robbery suspects in Jersey City, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)Rich Schultz / FR27227 AP

When the gunfire stopped, both suspects were dead and five officers were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Three other officers were treated for minor injuries, such as flying glass.

Police identified the vehicle used in the earlier robbery from surveillance video. Investigators learned the suspects moved it each morning to avoid getting a ticket and staked the vehicle out.

The gunfight began when the suspects approached their car. The man pulled out a pump-action shotgun and fired at the marked police car, blowing out its windshield. One of the officers was shot in the leg.

The subsequent injuries all took place during the apartment assault. The fourth officer wounded was shot in the chest, but the blast was absorbed by his bulletproof vest. The fifth victim, a member of the emergency services unit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was shot in the arm.

No names have been released.

The street where the shooting took place remained roped off with police tape as investigators checked a weed-strewn vacant lot nearby for bullets.