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Officials: Bulletproof Vest Saves Life Of Officer Shot In East Orange, New Jersey

EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- An East Orange, New Jersey police officer was thanking his bulletproof vest Wednesday for saving his life.

As CBS2's Matt Kozar reported, East Orange police Sgt. Mike Williams was making a routine stop around 11 a.m. Wednesday when the unexpected happened. Residents heard gunshot and took cover.

"They blocked off the area and everything, and that's when I said to myself, 'OK, this is big,'" said East Orange resident Dwayne Murrill.

Williams was not expecting the man he had stopped on a bicycle along North Oraton Parkway near New Street was going to pull out a gun and shoot him once in the abdomen.

Officials: Bulletproof Vest Saves Life Of Officer Shot In East Orange, New Jersey

"It's something that we always know can happen, but when it happens to one of your own, of course, you feel very deep about it," said East Orange police Chief Bill Robinson.

Robinson said Williams' bulletproof vest saved his life.

Investigators said he was able to return fire, but missed the suspect who was taking off. On the ground taking cover, Williams radioed for backup.

Within minutes, East Orange police cornered and arrested Robert O'Neil, 29, about a block away. He had an outstanding arrest warrant, police said.

"We're very grateful," Chief Robinson said. "We thank God for the fact that he's safe."

All afternoon Wednesday, officers, family and friends visited Williams – a 12-year veteran of the department – at University Hospital in Newark. Officials said he should make a full recovery.

Williams works in a unit that looks for quality-of-life violations, but it was unclear why he stopped O'Neil. Chief Robinson said Williams is an important part of his department, and he was recently voted East Orange officer of the month.

Robert R. O'Neil
Robert R. O'Neil (Essex County Prosecutor's Office)

Police said Williams' father is a retired police officer. Suspect O'Neil was charged with attempted murder and unlawful; possession of a weapon.

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