A white police officer was responding to a crime when he shot a black off-duty colleague presumably by mistake in St. Louis, Missouri, with some claiming the “victim” was shot because he was black.
The white officer was chasing gunmen in a stolen car with some other colleagues when the black officer came out of his home armed with his police-issued gun to help the operations. The black officer was shot in the arm and taken to a nearby hospital.
As far as the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is concerned, the shooting was merely a “friendly fire incident.” The injured officer’s lawyer had a contradicting perception, however, and said that his client had been “automatically feared” as a black man.
Lawrence O’ Toole, acting police commissioner, said the officers were chasing a stolen car when three suspects inside the vehicle fired at them on Wednesday night. The officers went after the car until it crashed, and the suspects holding guns tried to escape on foot.
Toole said the officers then fired at the suspects as they feared for their safety since the fleeing men are armed. The black police officer heard the commotion from his residence and responded to the scene.
Toole added: “Two officers challenged the off-duty officer and ordered him to the ground, to which he complied.” The officers then recognized their 38-year-old colleague who has been in service for 11 years. Unfortunately, a third officer, 36-year-old white man who had been in the force for eight years, failed to recognize at once his colleague and misinterpreted the scene. Fearing for his safety, he fired a shot, hitting the off-duty officer in the arm.
Except for the accidental shooting of the off-duty officer, it was actually a successful operation by the responding officers as two of the suspects, both 17-year-old black boys, were arrested at the scene and had their guns confiscated. A third suspect, however, managed to escape and remains at large.
The officer who shot his colleague and six others have been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation by the Force Investigation Unit. The black officer’s lawyer, Rufus Tate, Jr. said: “This is the first time that we are aware that a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street- this is the real problem. This has been a national discussion for the past two years. There is this perception that a black man is automatically feared.”
The case is open to dynamic debates whether it was a matter of mere “honest accident” by the responding white officer or if there’s a hint or element of discrimination against the black off-duty officer.