BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Baton Rouge neighborhood was awakened before dawn Saturday by a hail of gunfire, with police saying two officers were wounded as they traded shots with a man they had been chasing.
Neighbors say dozens of shots were fired in an exchange that also wounded the suspect.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said the officers’ injuries didn’t appear to be life-threatening. The suspect was undergoing surgery at the same area hospital.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said a bullet grazed the head of one officer; the other officer was hit in the stomach but protected by his bulletproof vest.
“These guys are fortunate to be alive,” Moore said. “God didn’t want to take them today. It was not their day.”
Gina Chambers said the suspect is 22-year-old Calvin Smith, who has been living at her Baton Rouge home since December. Chambers said Smith’s mother is her godmother.
Chambers said Smith has been grappling with “mental issues” and had attempted suicide before he moved from Shreveport to his native Baton Rouge. Chambers said Smith received mental health treatment last year at a hospital in Shreveport, where he had been living with a sister.
Chambers said Smith has been taking medication for his condition, and she didn’t see any obvious signs of distress before the shooting.
“He seemed like he was fine,” she said.
Police didn’t immediately confirm the name of the man suspected of firing at the officers.
The officers responded to a call at about 5:30 a.m. to a report of someone damaging property, which Moore described as a domestic disturbance reported by a woman who knew the suspect.
When police arrived, the suspect took off in a vehicle. The officers chased him until he bailed out of his car, about 2 miles away.
Baton Rouge. Sgt. Don Coppola said the suspect exited his vehicle with a rifle and fired at the officers, hitting both. The officers returned fire and struck the suspect. Moore described the rifle as a semiautomatic, large caliber weapon.
The chase ended at Chambers’ home. She said she didn’t know where Smith had obtained the rifle police say he used.
Moore said investigators will study video footage taken by the dashboard cameras in two police cruisers for evidence into the shooting. He said at least one of the officers was wearing a body camera, but it wasn’t immediately known whether he was able to activate it before the confrontation took place.
Moore said one officer was white and the other is black. Smith is black.
Police remained at the end of the chase for nearly five hours, eventually towing away two police cruisers, including one with at least three bullet holes. Neighbors gathered to watch the activity in the neighborhood about four miles east of downtown Baton Rouge, some draped in blankets against the morning chill.
Terrell Starwood, who was staying a friend’s house, estimated he heard more than 40 shots. Dozens of evidence markers were on the ground at the house where the chase ended, indicating possible bullet casings.
“You could tell they were from different guns,” Starwood said. “I didn’t hear nothing but sirens, gunshots and tires squealing.”