WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ A retired police officer who held up a liquor store to help pay medical bills for his brain-damaged son won't have to go to prison.

Supreme Court Justice James Cowhey placed 33-year-old Eric Shames on five years' probation Monday and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. He also was ordered to repay the $1,500 he stole at gunpoint.

''I never would have hurt anybody,'' Shames said, his voice trembling. ''I just wanted to pay some bills.''

Shames' 4-year-old son, Christopher, was born with a rare heart disorder. Surgery in 1992 went awry, leaving the boy brain-damaged, blind and in a wheelchair. He requires 24-hour care.

Christopher has $200,000 in bills not covered by insurance, Shames' lawyer said.

Shames said the pressure ''drove me over the border from the right side of the law to the wrong side.''

He retired from the New Rochelle Police Department in 1988 after injuring his spine while helping subdue a drug addict.