The career criminal who blasted an NYPD cop during a Bronx shootout Tuesday was free to roam the streets despite having an open gun case — because a judge let him go without bail, according to sources and records reviewed by The Post.
Rameek Smith, who was shot dead in the melee, was also under the watch of a court-ordered mental health program as part of his sentence after pleading guilty to the 2020 felony gun charge in Brooklyn.)
Here’s a guy who deserved to be in jail and he wasn’t,” retired NYPD Detective Sgt. Joseph Giacalone said Wednesday. “Then, he shoots a cop and now he’s dead.”
Smith shot a veteran cop in an exchange of gunfire in the Bronx Tuesday night and died early Wednesday from a gunshot wound to the head.
A review of court records by The Post revealed that Smith, 25, remained free on the gun rap despite a bid by prosecutors in October 2020 to have him held on $50,000 bail.
The charges against Smith were not eligible for bail under the controversial 2019 state criminal justice reforms. But prosecutors argued that bail could still be set because Smith was convicted on gun charges in a 2016 robbery on Staten Island.
The judge disagreed and Smith remained free.
Smith in December 2021 pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the case — but had yet to be sentenced.
As part of his plea deal, he was placed under the care of RevCore, a mental health and addiction treatment program, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration said.
If he completed two years in the treatment program, the court would’ve dropped the felony count against him as per the deal.
Smith was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia when he was 16, sources said
In the 2020 gun case, Smith was busted at a Coney Island subway station after cops spotted him jumping the turnstile, then found him with a loaded .32-caliber handgun.
Police initially charged Smith with second-degree weapons possession, but the charge was knocked down to third-degree in an indictment — which is not eligible for bail under the state law. He was due back in court in June, officials said.
The troubled felon has nine prior arrests, including the Staten Island robbery for which he served four months behind bars and got five years of probation, sources said.
The victim in that case said Wednesday that Smith got his just desserts.
“If he shot at police officers, he knew what was coming,” said the victim, who asked that his name not be used, but said his dad was a cop for 20 years.
Smith was nearly nabbed again Tuesday night, when Officer Dennis Vargas, who works for the Bronx Borough public safety team, and his partner spotted him walking near 3rd Avenue and Claremont Parkway around 10:45 p.m., according to Chief of Detectives James Essig.
After Vargas, 32, and his partner, who were in uniform, exited their unmarked car, the suspect fled on foot, officials said.
The two cops gave chase and after a block-and-a-half pursuit, Smith turned around on Bathgate Avenue and allegedly fired two shots at the cops, striking Vargas. The officers returned fire, hitting Smith in the head, police and sources said.
Sources said Smith was initially stopped because it appeared he was carrying a weapon.
Vargas — an eight-year veteran, whose father-in-law is also a cop — was taken to the hospital and released a short time later.
We’re extremely fortunate this morning that our officer is recovering after being shot by a dangerous criminal who shouldn’t have been on the streets of the Bronx or anywhere else,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell tweeted. “NYPD officers are here for New Yorkers day and night — risking their lives without hesitation.”
Robin Ballard, who said she is the godmother to Smith’s girlfriend, said he had just gone out to the store when police approached him.
He was a gangster, but he was sweet, though,” Ballard said. “You know, like they say, he was in the wrong. If you shoot an officer, you know you’re not going to live. They scared him, though. That’s why he ran.”
She said Smith belonged to a sect of the Bloods street gang.
His girlfriend, Natasha Ramos, said Smith has two kids, a 2-year-old and a newborn with two different women — neither one of them Ramos.
“At the end of the day the cop got shot in the shoulder,” said Ramos, 23. “That doesn’t mean they finna shoot my n—er in the head, you feel me? C’mon.
“Cop got shot twice by my n—er got shot seven times. C’mon.”
By Wednesday evening, friends had gathered at the scene, where a pool of blood still marked where Smith was shot.
“It’s not over,” Ballard said. “It’s not over.”
Start your day with all you need to know
Morning Report delivers the latest news, videos, photos and more.
Enter your email address
Smith’s last known address is a homeless shelter on Castleton Avenue in Staten Island, but he has family who live nearby in the Bronx, Essig said.
“I know this kid very well and he’s not a good one,” said one neighbor who asked not to be identified. “I believe he doesn’t live here but thank God because he’s always getting arrested.
Mayor Eric Adams called Smith’s case a prime example of why he’s pushing for reforms.
“People want to ask, why am I cracking down on fare evasions? That’s why. People want to ask why we conducted 300,000 station inspections. That’s why.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Legal Aid Society, which represented Smith, shot back at what they called the mayor’s “fear-mongering.”
“Rameek Smith was a father and son,” the statement said. “His tragic and untimely killing is devastating. Mr. Smith was released from New York City Department of Correction custody on a non-violent felony in March 2020, on consent of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and the court.
“Since that time, after being accepted to Mental Health Court, Mr. Smith complied with all of his obligations, attending every court appearance and consistently participating in program to address his needs.”