The shooting of a Black off-duty police officer in St. Louis on Wednesday evening has sparked a conversation about racial bias within the city’s Metropolitan Police Department, the Huffington Post reports.
According to The Post, the Black officer, who has served on the force for 11 years, left his home in plain clothes to assist other officers who were responding to a car theft report in his neighborhood. Shots were being exchanged between the suspects and officers, as the off-duty Black officer arrived on the scene with his gun to support his colleagues.
When the Black officer arrived, the other officers didn’t immediately recognize him, so they told him to drop to the ground. Once they recognized him as an officer, they told him to stand up and walk toward them.
That’s when another White officer, who had just arrived on the scene, shot the Black officer in the arm, reports the outlet. The Black officer was taken to a local hospital and later released.
While the police department claims that the cop who fired his weapon “feared for his safety,” the victim’s lawyer said the incident is more than a mistake, The Post reported.
“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,” said the victim’s lawyer Rufus J. Tate Jr. in a statement, according to the source. “This is a real problem.”
The Huffington Post reported that the officer responsible for the shooting and six other officers are on administrative leave, and an investigation has been launched.
This isn’t the first incident of its kind to happen within the past few years. According to WVIR-TV, in 2005 off-duty police officer Omar J. Edwards was fatally shot by a White officer in Harlem. A year prior, a Black Mount Vernon cop, dressed in plain clothes, was fatally shot while trying to apprehend a suspect.