NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A veteran Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officer was stabbed in the face Wednesday morning during a violent confrontation with a knife-wielding man at Jamaica station in Queens, officials said.
John Barnett, 45, was on a patrol on Sutphin Blvd. outside the station when without provocation an emotionally disturbed man walked up to him and slashed him under his left eye, MTA Chairman Joesph Lhota told reporters, including 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria.
1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria With More On The Story
"Unprovoked he just walks right up to the officer -- he has a knife in his right hand -- and just stabs him," said MTA Police Chief Michael Coan.
Family members and officers rushed to Jamaica Hospital to be with Barnett, whose injuries were described as "devastating" by doctors. However, they are considered non-life threatening.
WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported that it is not known if Barnett will have vision in his left eye after he has surgery, which he underwent early Wednesday evening.
WCBS 880's Sophia Hall Reports
Barnett, who has been a MTA officer for 13 years and is a lieutenant commander in the naval reserve who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, followed protocol and repeatedly told the man to drop his knife even after the brutal blow to the eye, CBS 2's Amy Dardashtian reported.
"He's giving commands 'Police drop the knife, drop the weapon.' The commands we learned in our training," Coan said.
When the man didn't comply, Barnett fired four shots --three of which struck and killed the man.
Barnett, who spent a year with the NYPD before moving over to the MTA police, had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before.
"In a split second, he confronted a violent person, an individual who posed a threat directly to him and to everyone around the officer. I am absolutely in awe of his bravery," Lhota said.
Cameras at the scene captured the violent incident.
The suspect has been identified as 46-year-old Edjar Owens and authorities said he has a prior history of attacking cops, including incidents in 2006 and 2007.
Witness Steven Lopez thought the sound of the gunshot was a blown tire before several more shots followed.
"We heard a gunshot," Lopez said. "Then we heard two shots in a row that echoed so loud that it became so clear that it was an actual gunshot."
"I just heard three shots, I thought it was firecrackers at first," one witness said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he spoke with Barnett before he went in to surgery and thanked him on behalf of all New Yorkers for his courage.
"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 in a statement. "We applaud Officer Barnett's bravery and pray for a full recovery."
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