A 26-year-old New York police officer walked out of the hospital and into the arms of her fellow officers after taking a bullet to the face during a shootout with two suspects.
Yonkers Officer Kayla Maher was released from Jacobi Hospital Tuesday, less than 24 hours after she was shot in the jaw while answering a call about a suspicious vehicle, authorities said.
The young woman was pushed in a wheelchair to the medical center’s entrance, where dozens of officers were lined up to cheer her release.
She rose and walked to the phalanx of police, and was hugged and kissed on the cheek as she made her way down the line of applauding cops.
“She rolls with the punches, she knows how to handle herself,” family friend Nick Molinini told WCBS-TV. He called her “just a great, amazing person — strong willed.”
She is the daughter of a retired New York Police Department sergeant.
Maher had a bandage on her chin, but appeared to be otherwise fine. She smiled broadly as she was driven away in an SUV.
The alleged shooter was identified as Frank Valencia, 18, who was on probation after he was arrested in May while carrying a handgun, knives and 300 rounds of ammunition in his backpack, authorities said.
He had been released from custody just five days before Monday’s shootout, police said.
“It’s another horrendous decision by an activist judge,” said Keith Olsen, president of the Police Benevolent Association. “You have a male who's arrested for possession of an illegal weapon with 300 rounds of ammunition out here on the streets of the Bronx, and the judge gives him youthful offender status and probation, and releases him out on the street to go and shoot a police officer."
A second suspect, 22, was also arrested but hasn’t been identified by authorities. Charges were expected to be filed Wednesday against the two suspects.
Maher was shot after she and her partner approached a car containing two men. A neighbor had called 911 to report the male occupants had been sitting in the vehicle for more than an hour.
“One of the males suddenly produced a firearm and fired several shots at the officers at point-blank range, striking Officer Kayla Maher in the face,” Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said Tuesday. “The officers returned fire, striking the shooter.”
Valencia remains hospitalized from his wound, authorities said.
Residents reported hearing a barrage of gunfire as officers opened fire on the car. While bullets were flying between the two men and officers, fellow cops carried Maher to safety.
“She’s a wonderful police officer, heroic in what she did, gutsy as we would expect her to be,” Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said Tuesday. “We know she will make a full recovery.”