St. Louis detective shot in shoulder was following car he’d loaned to relative who didn’t return it

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A St. Louis police detective shot in the shoulder early Thursday was fired on as he followed his own vehicle, which he had lent to a family member who didn’t return it, police said.

Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said the officer, 54, was stable at St. Louis University Hospital after the 1:20 a.m. shooting. Police were looking for at least two suspects in the crime.

Officers found the car Thursday afternoon in the 3400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue and took a 35-year-old man into custody, but they said they were still trying to determine whether the man had any connection to the shooting. Police confirmed that the officer’s family member, who originally took the car and did not return it, was not involved in the shooting.

Police said shortly after the shooting that the detective was investigating a stolen vehicle. But they later said it had not been reported stolen to police. Instead, the detective had been on the lookout for the vehicle after a relative he lent it to several days earlier failed to return it.

Another officer had spotted the vehicle in the area of Alberta Street and South Grand Boulevard, police said. That officer told the detective, who was on duty, about seeing the vehicle.

The detective – in an department-owned but unmarked white Dodge pickup – began following the car on Iowa Avenue. Near the intersection with Miami Street, “at least two suspects emerged and fired shots at the officer, striking him in the shoulder,” police said.

The shooters fired more than a dozen shots at the officer, a source said.

It wasn’t clear whether the shooter or shooters knew the man in the truck was a police officer. Police did not provide detailed descriptions of the gunmen.

O’Toole said the injured detective was able to get out of the area quickly after being shot. The detective went to the area of Cherokee Street and South Jefferson Avenue and called for help. A police officer came and took him to the hospital.

O’Toole said the detective never fired his weapon.

“He did not fire any shots,” O’Toole said. “He did not shoot his weapon at all.”

At the scene overnight, crime-scene technicians examined a white pickup that appeared to have a bullet hole in its windshield.

The police department’s Force Investigative Unit is investigating the shooting. The unit, set up in September 2014, conducts criminal investigations of all officer-involved shootings.

The detective was talking after being shot and was admitted into the hospital for treatment, O’Toole said. The unidentified officer has 25 years’ experience, O’Toole said.