A black off-duty cop tried to help stop a crime. Another officer shot him.
A “friendly fire” incident in which an off-duty St. Louis policeman was shot while coming to the aid of fellow officers has taken on racial overtones after an incendiary claim by the injured officer’s attorney: The officer was viewed as a threat because he was black.
The St. Louis Police Department has not identified any of the officers involved in Wednesday night’s incident. The officer who shot the off-duty policeman is white. All seven officers involved are on administrative leave as the department sorts out what happened.
What is known is that officers with an anti-crime task force were tracking a car that was stolen from the Maryland Heights community after its license plate had been detected by an automatic reader Wednesday night, interim police chief Lawrence O’Toole told reporters.
During the chase, the armed men inside the car opened fire.
Officers fired back, hitting one of the men in the ankle during the ensuing exchange. The vehicle ultimately crashed in a neighborhood on the north side of the city and the occupants jumped out and ran, police said. The man shot in the ankle was quickly arrested, along with a teenager who was caught after a brief chase. A third man — who police believed was armed — got away and remained at large Sunday.
An off-duty officer who lives nearby heard the commotion, grabbed his service pistol and headed to the scene to assist his fellow officers. He arrived as the other officers were carrying out the arrest.
The other officers ordered the off-duty officer to the ground, then recognized him as a fellow policeman and told him to stand up and walk toward them.
As he approached, another officer arrived and shot the off-duty officer in the arm, “apparently not recognizing” him, police told the Associated Press.
The black officer, who is 38 years old and an 11-year veteran of the force, was treated at the hospital and released. The shooter, a 36-year-old officer who has been on the force for eight years, told investigators he had feared for his safety.
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