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MTA cop recovering after July 4th attack

By Rich Bockmann

The MTA police officer who was attacked while patrolling the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station on the Fourth of July was recovering and scheduled to have a second surgery on his eye this week after being released from Jamaica Hospital Friday, the MTA said.

Officer John Barnett, 45, was standing near a taxi booth on Sutphin Boulevard under the elevated LIRR station around 9:30 a.m. July 4 when 46-year-old Edgar Owens walked out of the station holding a knife at his side, according to authorities.

When Owens approached Barnett with no warning, the officer stepped back and drew his weapon, repeatedly telling the man to drop his knife, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

Barnett fired his gun four times, hitting Owens three times in his jaw, chest and hip, officials said.

Both men were rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where Owens was pronounced dead, and Barnett underwent surgery. If the knife had gone in just 1 inch deeper, it would have hit the officer’s brain, the MTA said.

MTA Executive Director Joseph Lhota rushed to the hospital and commended Barnett.

“He confronted a violent person, an individual who posed a threat directly to him and to everyone around the officer. He took action without regard to his personal safety,” he said. “I am absolutely in awe of his bravery.”

Officials said Owens, who lived in the Bronx, had been arrested several times before.

“Owens has a history of confronting police officers without provocation,” Lhota said. “In 2006, he walked into the 26 Precinct house, punched an officer in the face. In 2007, he walked into the 103 Precinct here in Queens and he said he wanted to get arrested and if he didn’t he would punch somebody in the face as well.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Barnett at the hospital, and later released a statement praising the officer for his valor.

“Today we are reminded once again of the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in law enforcement, and the many dangers that accompany the important job of keeping our state’s residents safe,” Cuomo said. “We applaud Officer Barnett’s bravery and pray for a full recovery.”

Barnett joined the MTA Police Department in 1999 after serving a year with the NYPD, and in that time he had never fired his weapon, the MTA said.

He graduated from SUNY Maritime College and joined the Navy Reserves, serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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

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