NEW: Officer who was shot is out of the hospital, police say
Police chief does not believe the shooting had anything to do with protests
The officer was patrolling in a car alone when he encountered the suspect
In a separate incident, off-duty policeman takes fire while driving his personal car
A police officer patrolling in Ferguson, Missouri, was shot in the arm late Saturday, police said. His wound was not life-threatening, and he was released from a local hospital after being treated.
There’s no reason to believe the shooting was connected with demonstrations over the August police shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown, authorities said.
“It didn’t happen within the proximity of the protest area,” said St. Louis County Police Chief Col. Jon Belmar. The shooting scene was in a more secluded area.
“I wouldn’t have any reason to believe right now that it was linked in any way, shape, manner or form with the protests,” he said.
Still, the shooting stoked emotions among protesters who were on the street demonstrating over Brown’s death.
“All the hate’s got to stop,” Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told a group of demonstrators after the shooting.
He also said some people who took part in protests over Brown’s shooting have threatened to kill a police officer.
The officer shot was patrolling alone in his police cruiser when he conducted a “business check” at the Ferguson Community Center, St. Louis County Police said in a statement.
He saw a “male subject” at the rear of the building. When the officer got out of his car to question him, the man ran, and the officer gave chase.
Then the man spun around with a handgun and “fired shots at the officer,” the statement read. One struck the officer in the left arm.
The officer shot back, police said, but there was no indication that he hit the suspect, who ducked into a wooded area, eluding the officer.
Police from neighboring areas joined Ferguson police to search for the suspect for more than an hour but could not find him. He is still at large.
In the aftermath of the shooting, county police officials gave differing accounts of what led up to it, saying at one point that it involved two suspects who spontaneously ran from the officer’s squad car.
Belmar told reporters the officer was very close to two suspects when one turned on him with a gun. He said the officer blocked the gun with his arm and then was shot.
Police later said the account of two suspects was incorrect.
The officer was wearing a body camera, according to the Saint Louis County sheriff’s office, but it was “not activated,” officials said.
The wounded officer was able to speak and told colleagues about the incident, police said.
In a separate incident hours later, gunmen fired at a car driven by an off-duty St. Louis city police officer on an interstate highway. The officer was in his private vehicle and was not wearing a uniform shirt at the time.
The gunmen passed the officer on the left and shot his vehicle multiple times with handguns, police said in a statement.
The gunfire did not appear to hit the officer, who suffered minor scratches from breaking glass.
“It is unclear at this time if the officer was targeted or if this was a random act of violence,” county police said in a statement.
The officer did not return fire.
Heated Ferguson responses
Some people were quick to connect the officer’s shooting with the tensions that have beset Ferguson since Brown was killed August 9.
“Cops are creating an excuse,” one Twitter user posted. “Can’t tell me differently.”
Others blamed people on the streets.
“Ferguson. YOU have a problem,” one wrote.
“It’s unbelievable that town is still this out of control,” posted another.
Michael Brown protests
Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Ferguson since Brown was shot by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Despite demands by protesters, Wilson has not been charged in the case, though a grand jury is hearing evidence that could lead to an indictment.
Tensions reignited in the St. Louis suburb on Thursday night after Police Chief Thomas Jackson addressed a crowd of demonstrators. A scuffle ensued, and arrests were made.
Wading into the crowd, Jackson apologized for his department’s actions after the shooting, but pledged not to resign. “I’m sorry, and I said that from my heart,” he said. “I had to get that off my chest. It’s been sitting there for two months.”
“If you are not resigning tonight, go home,” one man said on a bullhorn.
Brown’s shooting stirred complaints of widespread racial profiling in Ferguson, which Jackson rejected Thursday.
“It’s never been the intention of the Ferguson Police Department – or any police department that I know – to intentionally target individuals because of race,” said the chief. “If there is that happening, it’s a crime and it needs to be addressed.”