ST. LOUIS, Mo. (AP) — Two St. Louis police officers were shot and one of them was seriously wounded Saturday evening while responding to a report of a shooting on the city’s south side by a suspect who remains barricaded inside a house, authorities said.
One officer was shot in the head and was “very critically” injured, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief John Hayden told reporters outside of St. Louis University Hospital, where the officer had been taken. The other officer suffered a leg wound, he added.
Investigators with the police department said the incident took place shortly before 6 p.m. in the South Grand neighborhood near Tower Grove Park.
The gunman had entered the home of a family before ordering them out of their residence at gunpoint and barricading himself inside, Hayden said.
The officers were searching for a victim in response to a report of a shooting when the gunman fired shots and struck the one of the officers in the head, Hayden said. After other officers went to check on the wounded officer, the suspect then shot a second officer in the leg, he said.
The officers were “trying to do their job, that’s all they’re trying to do and they’re suffering under gunfire,” Hayden said, adding that the incidents are part of “a surge in violence” this summer. He asked residents to pray for the officers.
“We’re trying to cope through a very trying summer, and it’s very difficult. It’s very difficult,” he said.
Since June 1, Hayden noted that a total of eight officers have been shot in the line of duty.
Several streets were closed to vehicles and pedestrians. Nearby residents were cautioned to shelter inside as SWAT officers swarmed the neighborhood. Police surrounded the residence where the suspect is blocked in with SUVs and officers armed with rifles.
As of 8 p.m., police said officers were negotiating with the gunman to get him to come out of the house. Police officers used a bullhorn to order the suspect to leave the house. At one point, police said they were firing tear gas into the house.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted her condolences following the incident.
“Please keep our injured officers and all the men and women of @SLMPD in your thoughts and prayers as this situation continues to develop. Their friends, family and loved ones, too,” Krewson said.
Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner also issued a statement of support.
“We extend our deepest concern and sadness surrounding today’s unfortunate events,” Gardner told KDSK-TV. “I want to extend my prayers for the injured SLMPD officers and their families.”
Hayden said the officer who suffered the head wound was around the age of 29 and has 3 1/2 years of experience with the department. The second officer is around the same age and has one year of experience.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who arrived at the hospital Saturday night, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was there to show his support for the officers and their families.
“They’re doing very dangerous work protecting all of us, and they deserve that kind of respect,” Schmitt said.