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Vest saves Suffolk, N.Y. cop; officer shot with own gun

Police credit vest after officer is shot at point-blank range while making arrest.

By Denise M. Bonilla, Jonathan Mummolo and Sumanthi Reddy

SUFFOLK, N.Y.. - A Suffolk police officer was shot in the abdomen yesterday in Huntington Station after struggling with a man who wrestled three officers to the ground, grabbed the officer''s gun and fired, police said.

Second Precinct Officer Michael Coscia, 26, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he remained in stable condition undergoing tests last night.

Coscia, who police would only say lives in Nassau County, was wearing a bulletproof vest when he and the other officers responded to a 911 call about a man who took to the street after an altercation with his family. The impact of the bullet - fired at point-blank range from Coscia''s 9-mm gun - was enough to push the vest into Coscia''s abdomen, causing serious injuries, police said.

"We are very fortunate today that this officer is with us," said Police Commissioner Richard Dormer at a news conference where he held up a department-issued Kevlar vest, which police said saved Coscia''s life.

Officers Markus Rivera, 32, and Keith Mangels, 27, who also responded to the call, were treated at Huntington Hospital for minor cuts and bruises, police said.

At 1:44 p.m., police responded to a call from the relatives of Jerell Harris, 22, who police said used to live in Huntington Station but now has no known address. Harris'' grandmother had called police after he became violent during an argument at her West 11th Street home. When police responded to the call, they said they found Harris waving a tree branch and acting irrationally on the corner of West 11th Street and New York Avenue.

Police said they tried to talk to him, but Harris screamed and cursed at the officers. At one point, Harris appeared to calm down, dropping the branch and putting his hands behind his back, police added. But when the officers tried to arrest him, Harris struggled with them, grabbing Coscia''s gun, shooting him once in the lower abdomen and firing at another officer but missing.

Officers were able to take the gun away from Harris, who was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder, three counts of second-degree assault and one count each of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, police said. Harris, who police said has a lengthy history of arrests dating to at least 1999, was being held overnight and will be arraigned today. Harris'' relatives could not be reached for comment.

Dormer said Coscia has been a police officer for nearly four years and patrols the Huntington Station area. Coscia''s relatives along with Dormer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy visited the officer at Stony Brook yesterday.

"We are all breathing a sigh of relief," Levy said. "We know what could have been. Thank God the vest saved his life."

Dormer said the incident highlights the danger officers face every day.

Copyright 2007 Newsday

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