Minneapolis officer shot, injured during ambush
"Looking at the car, listening to the gunfire – it truly is a blessing he is still here with us."
By Liz Sawyer
MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis police officer was shot and wounded by automatic gunfire during an apparent ambush while pursuing a robbery suspect in an unmarked car on the city's North Side late Friday night, Police Chief Brian O'Hara said.
The seven-year department veteran was struck in the back of the shoulder and taken to North Memorial Health, where he remains in stable condition.
"By the grace of God, he is alive, awake and talking," O'Hara said during a late-night news conference. "This incident underscores the incredible courage, bravery — and truly the restraint of our officers as they face incredible challenges today. Putting their lives on the line to protect strangers."
Four suspects, including a teenage boy, were later taken into custody, O'Hara said. Investigators also recovered one firearm from the scene.
O'Hara gave this account of the chaotic string of events Friday night:
Just before 8 p.m., officers observed a white Chevrolet Equinox in the area of a robbery that just occurred at 36th and Queen avenues N. in Minneapolis, O'Hara said. Officers from the Fourth Precinct attempted a traffic stop on the SUV. The vehicle had a COPS alert for fleeing from Brooklyn Park police on Thursday, he said. The vehicle initially pulled over but then fled.
Around an hour later, a uniformed patrol officer driving an unmarked, "unconventional" vehicle observed that same Chevy in the area of Dowling and Morgan avenues N. He pursued the suspect vehicle for about a mile, trailing behind and believing he was "undetected while he was calling for additional officers."
At 9:16 p.m. on the 4300 block of Colfax Avenue N., the officer pursuing the suspect vehicle was ambushed by a volley of automatic gunfire as he drove past. At least 14 rounds were fired — six struck the squad and one hit the officer in the shoulder.
The officer fled west on Webber Parkway to Fremont Avenue N., where a backup officer pulled him from the vehicle and raced him to the hospital. O'Hara declined to name the injured officer, describing him only as a seven-year veteran and a member of the Fourth Precinct Community Response Team.
Shortly after the shots were fired, backup officers spotted the same Chevy Equinox in the area of Lyndale and 42nd avenues N., O'Hara said. Several squad cars began pursuing the vehicle and attempted a traffic stop, but the driver refused to pull over. That pursuit continued — with assistance from deputies from Hennepin County Sheriff's Office — to the intersection of 21st and Upton avenues N., where the suspect vehicle crashed into a parked car.
Two men, one woman and a teenage boy were arrested. All three males were hospitalized with minor injuries, including one man who was bit by a dog with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, O'Hara said.
Investigators roped off multiple crime scenes Friday night. Forensic analysts placed evidence markers over spent bullet casings at the sight of the shooting as investigators combed side streets with flashlights. And at the crash site, the heavily damaged Chevy Equinox could be seen with its airbags deployed and doors flung open.
"The officer I would say is in shock ... Looking at the car, listening to the gunfire — it truly is a blessing he is still here with us," O'Hara said flanked by newly appointed Assistant Chiefs Christopher Gaiters and Katie Blackwell. "That particular block, the way it's set up — with a hillcrest, on a grade and on a curve — is quite frankly a perfect area for somebody to be ambushed."
"You wouldn't see it coming," he added.
The officer was slated to be released from North Memorial around 1:15 a.m. Saturday, where fellow law enforcement officials waited outside to salute him.
Also Friday night in Minneapolis, a man in his 70s was stabbed to death in a suspected domestic homicide on 17th and Dupont avenues S. and a woman in her 30s was arrested, police said.
A shooting on the city's South Side left one person dead and at least four injured. Police responded to the 2200 block of 16th Avenue S., where gunfire was reported to have struck a crowd of people hanging out in a yard. One man died at the scene, while four others were hospitalized with injuries not considered life-threatening.
Two gunmen reportedly fled on foot. No arrests have been made in that case.