An off-duty police officer who was just trying to help his colleagues after a car chase ended in a shootout near his home ended up being shot by a fellow cop who did not recognize that they were on the same team.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole originally told reporters that the off-duty officer had come out of his home after a car that was reported stolen crashed nearby, and that he was hit in the crossfire between officers and the suspects who had been inside the vehicle.
Now the police are saying that the off-duty officer was shot by another cop who did not recognize him as an officer in a separate encounter away from the crash Wednesday night.
According to the report, two officers initially encountered the armed, off-duty officer and ordered him to the ground. The off-duty officer complied, but the other officers soon recognized him as one of their own and told him that he could stand up. Just then, however, another officer arrived on the scene and saw the off-duty officer getting up and, not recognizing the man as an officer, fired his weapon, striking the off-duty officer in the arm.
The New York Daily News identities the off-duty officer as black and the shooting officer as white.
The injured off-duty officer was treated at a hospital and released Thursday.
The incident began around 10 p.m. Wednesday when license-recognition equipment alerted police to a vehicle that had been stolen earlier this month. Officers chased after the white sedan and used spoke strips at one point. The three suspects inside the stolen car opened fire, hitting police vehicles, and officers backed off but continued to chase the car.
The car eventually crashed near an intersection, and the three suspects inside fled. Two officers “fearing for their safety” fired at the suspects and hit one in the ankle. That was when the off-duty officer heard the commotion and attempted to assist, grabbing his department-issued gun, and was shot.
The 38-year-old officer who was injured has been with the St. Louis Police Department for 11 years. The officer who shot him is 36 and had been with the department for eight years. In total, seven officers who were involved with the incident were placed on administrative leave, and the department’s Force Investigative Unit is looking into the incident.
As for the suspects, the injured suspect was taken into custody after he was treated and released at the hospital, while another was arrested at the scene. Both suspects were identified as 17-year-old boys. Two guns were recovered from them.
One teen is facing 16 felony charges, including seven counts each of first-degree assault and armed criminal action and one count each of resisting arrest and motor vehicle tampering, while the other teen was charged with 15 felonies, including seven counts each of first-degree assault and armed criminal action and one count of motor vehicle tampering. Both were held in lieu of $500,000 cash-only bail.
The third suspect who had been in the stolen car managed to escape.