NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A New York City police officer is fighting for his life after being punched by a man who claimed to be acting as a Good Samaritan.

The officer was off-duty when he stopped to reprimand some kids playing on a Bronx Street. That’s when things took a violent turn, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

A patrol car was guarding the Fordham Heights home of officer Ernest Rodrigz, who was left critically injured in an incident that began with young people playing in the spray of a fire hydrant up the street.

Many residents said they were troubled by the incident.

“That’s crazy,” one neighbor said. “Whoever did this is a crazy animal.”

Police said Rodrigz was off-duty, in a car with his young son, when kids hit the Honda with a water balloon.

Rodrigz got out and approached the young people. That’s when 20-year-old Keith McNeill allegedly walked up and punched Rodrigz in the face without warning.

Rodrigz hit the ground and suffered a critical head injury.

The suspect told police he was acting as a Good Samaritan – that he saw a man confronting the kids and intervened.

Few in the neighborhood, however, accepted McNeil’s explanation.

“I think it’s very adolescent to do something like that, especially if you don’t know the circumstances of what’s going on,” Bronx resident Norman Randolph said.

“That’s very wrong,” neighbor Nicka Rodriguez said. “They shouldn’t fix problems that way.”

Officer Rodrigz was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he remained in critical but stable condition Saturday night, surrounded by family and fellow cops.

Suspect Keith McNeill, who has four prior arrests, was charged with assault and harassment in connection to the incident.

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