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Shooting suspect surrenders

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The man accused of shooting a plainclothes police officer not far from the South Jamaica Houses last month was hit with an additional, unrelated attempted murder charge Monday after he turned himself in to authorities the night before.

After successfully evading law enforcement officials and a $22,000 reward since mid-August, 24-year-old John Thomas, accompanied by his lawyer, surrendered to NYPD detectives in the Pep Boys parking lot, at Liberty Avenue and Merrick Boulevard, around 7 p.m. Sunday night, police said.

The NYPD said Thomas had 17 prior arrests, including weapon and drug charges.

Thomas had been named as the suspect wanted in the Aug. 8 shooting of Sgt. Craig Bier, a 15-year veteran with 65 medals, 14 of which were for meritorious police duty. Bier and his partner had been patrolling near the South Jamaica Houses as part of a borough anti-gang unit around 10:30 p.m., police said, when they attempted to stop Thomas as he was riding his bicycle.

Bier took off on foot after Thomas and a gun fight broke out. Both men opened fire at each other, police said, and when the dust settled Bier had been hit in both legs and Thomas was nowhere to be found.

Police did recover a Ruger 9 mm pistol at the scene and Bier was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was treated for his wounds. The officer was released a few days later.

In the meantime, the NYPD had already named Thomas as their suspect and stepped up their presence in the neighborhood as they searched for him.

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) had said relations between the community and police had been stressed as cops searched for Thomas, and just a week earlier he held a news conference where he called on the suspect to turn himself in.

The day after Thomas turned himself in, the Queens district attorney’s office charged him with attempted murder, aggravated assault upon a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon in the shooting of Bier.

He was also charged with attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon and assault in a June 6 incident in which he allegedly fired 17 times at a male acquaintance just after 6 p.m. at the corner of 111th Avenue and 167th Street in South Jamaica.

The victim was hit in the buttocks and grazed by a bullet on his right leg, according to the district attorney.

Brown said that if convicted in both cases, Thomas would face up to 50 years to life in prison.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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