UPDATED at 7:30 a.m. with additional detail on injured officer, break-ins
A veteran Maryland Heights police officer was shot twice in the leg early Thursday when he and another officer confronted a man breaking into a car outside an apartment complex, police said.
The plainclothes officer, who had been watching the complex from an unmarked police car, was shot about 3:45 a.m. on Gallery Drive, near Bennington Place. The wounded officer’s partner returned fire but did not hit anyone.
Other officers who quickly descended on the area ran after the gunman and another suspect, arresting both. Charges are pending.
The injured officer, 38, was stable at a hospital.
“He’s expected to make a full recovery,” Maryland Heights Police Chief Bill Carson said.
The unidentified officer has been with the Maryland Heights force for nine years and had been with another agency for three or four years before that. His partner, with eight years’ experience, was unhurt.
Carson said the two officers were part of a special assignment in the predawn hours, working to curb a rash of car break-ins in Maryland Heights. Just last week alone, there were about 20 car break-ins in Maryland Heights, and guns were stolen in two of those cases, said Maryland Heights Police Officer Erica Stough.
The police chief said guns left behind in vehicles are the bounty of thieves, ramping up the danger for police.
“That’s another thing that’s really scary for our officers,” Carson said. “Because we’re getting so many guns stolen out of cars, the people that we’re encountering that are breaking into cars are armed, which makes it even more scary.”
On Thursday morning, two Maryland Heights officers were watching the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 2100 block of Gallery Drive. They were in a parked, unmarked police vehicle. They saw a man breaking into a car, and the officers got out of their car to confront him, Carson said. They walked up to the man and identified themselves as police officers, Carson said.
“The suspect turned and opened fire on both officers,” Carson said.
Carson said he didn’t know how many shots in all were fired. Evidence technicians were still processing the scene and marking shell casings on the ground. “We know there were multiple shots fired, by both the suspect and the officer’s partner,” Carson said. “I saw one car that had a bullet hole in the window.”
Within minutes, other officers descending on the scene had arrested two men — the suspected gunman who ran off, and another man believed to be a driver who brought the gunman to the parking lot, police say. Police recovered a gun they think was used to shoot the officer, Carson said.
Check back for more details.