A black off-duty St. Louis officer trying to assist after a police car chase ended in a shootout near his home was shot by a white cop from his department.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the 38-year-old African-American cop was home Wednesday night when he heard commotion nearby.
According to the outlet, officers had been pursuing a white sedan with three male suspects inside when the car crashed near the intersection of Park Lane and Astra Ave.
The three men in the car opened fire on pursuing police and fled the scene. The off-duty officer, who has not been identified, grabbed his department-issued gun and went out to offer assistance.
The outlet reports that he was initially stopped by two St. Louis officers and ordered to the ground. A department summary of the incident released Thursday stated that when the cops recognized him as a member of their force, they told him to get up and walk toward them.
That’s when another officer arrived at the scene, and fired at the off-duty cop, striking him in the arm. During a news conference at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said the officer had been injured by “friendly fire” when cops and the suspects were involved in a shootout.
The department later confirmed the off-duty officer had been shot by another cop in a separate incident.
According to Fox 2 Now, the officer who fired at his colleague told investigators he feared for his safety and didn’t recognize the man as one of their own. The on-duty officer’s identity has also not been released, but he’s said to be 36 years old and a member of the department for eight years. An attorney for the injured cop said in a statement that the incident was a “real problem.” “In the police report, you have so far, there is no description of threat he received. So we have a real problem with that,” Rufus Tate Jr. said. “But this has been a national discussion for the past two years. There is this perception that a black man is automatically feared.”
The off-duty cop, an 11-year veteran of the force, was released from the hospital Thursday. It’s not clear if the cop who shot him is on administrative leave.
The two suspects involved in the police shootout, 17-year-old Cortney Smith and 17-year-old Deandre Chaney, are in police custody. The third suspect is still on the loose.
The wounded officer is not giving interviews. His attorney, Rufus J. Tate, made the following statement:
In the police report you have so far, there is absolutely no description of any type of threat he perceived. So we have a real problem with that. But it also presents a bigger problem that has been a national discussion for the past two years — that’s this perception that a black man is automatically feared.
Tate said the incident was a case of “a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street. This is a real problem.”
The St. Louis area was once the epicenter of the nation’s ongoing debate about whether police are too quick to use deadly force against minorities.
On Tuesday, a federal judge awarded $1.5 million to the parents of Michael Brown, according to the Associated Press. Brown, 18, was unarmed on Aug. 9, 2014, when he was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white officer, during a confrontation in Ferguson, about 20 minutes from St. Louis.
Months of protests followed Brown’s shooting. Ultimately, a Justice Department investigation unearthed bias in the criminal justice system in Ferguson, although Wilson was never criminally charged.