CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Officers shot and killed a man after he allegedly pointed a rifle at them in suburban St. Louis, the second fatal police shooting of a black suspect in the region since the August shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Two officers fired a combined 25 shots Wednesday night after a chase in which the 42-year-old man slammed his vehicle into a police car then fled on foot into a construction area, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. The officers told Belmar the suspect tried to fire, but his .22-caliber rifle jammed and no casings were found outside the gun.
Belmar declined to name the man pending notification of relatives but said he had a lengthy criminal record and had spent eight years in prison on drug and weapons charges. The officers both have been with the department four years.
Belmar said the prosecutor's office will investigate the Jennings shooting, as it does all officer-involved shootings.
"These things happen very quickly and there is not a lot of time to do anything but react on your experience and your training," Belmar said Thursday. "That's what these officers did. I'm very proud of them."
Like neighboring Ferguson, Jennings is predominantly black, with nearly 90 percent of its residents African-American. Police said both officers involved in the shooting were white.
Jennings does not have its own police department, relying instead on St. Louis County police. Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer whose Aug. 9 shooting of the unarmed Brown sparked weeks of unrest, was a former Jennings officer before going to Ferguson when that police force disbanded. A state grand jury and the Justice Department are investigating the Ferguson shooting.
Officers received a call Wednesday night from a woman saying a man with a gun knocked on her door. The woman is an acquaintance of the man's ex-girlfriend, who was not in the apartment, Belmar said.
The man was gone by the time officers arrived. The same woman called again about 10:50 p.m. to say he was back.
After the two officers arrived, Belmar said the suspect, now in a rental car, reached for his rifle from the passenger seat. He then took off and rammed a police car, causing minor injuries to an officer inside.
The suspect rammed a second squad car, this one unoccupied. The suspect's vehicle was damaged and couldn't be driven, so he got out and ran into a construction area, Belmar said.
"He turned and pointed the rifle directly at one of the police officers," Belmar said. Both officers opened fire. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
The shooting was not recorded on video but Belmar said he would release surveillance video from the apartment complex showing the suspect with a gun.
The other fatal shooting in the area since Brown was killed came Aug. 19 when St. Louis city officers fired at a man who moved toward them with a knife, telling them: "Shoot me now. Kill me now."