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Police officer shot as unrest again grips Ferguson, Missouri

Police in Ferguson, Mo., say they are searching for a suspect who allegedly shot a police officer in the arm late Saturday evening.

Police in Ferguson, Mo., say they are searching for a suspect who allegedly shot a police officer in the arm late Saturday evening.

The shooting occurred in the 1000 block of Smith Avenue not far from the Ferguson Community Center, according to a press release from police. The suspect who is accused of firing is described as a black male with dreadlocks, just under six feet tall, and wearing dark pants and a dark shirt, according to NBC affiliate KSDK. Police say he was last seen running into a wooded area near the community center. 

Ferguson has, in recent days, again been gripped by violence and unrest over the death of Michael Brown. The black teenager was unarmed when he was shot and killed on August 9 by Darren Wilson, a white, six-year veteran of the Ferguson police force. In the days after the shooting, residents took to the streets clashing repeatedly with police. 

Those protests were quelled for nearly a month, but again reignited on Tuesday of last week after a memorial honoring Brown was burned. The renewed violence reportedly included some looting and smashing of windows at local businesses. One witness told KSDK that locals believed the memorial was burned intentionally and to believe otherwise would be "naive."

More protests also broke out last Thursday after Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson publicly apologized to Michael Brown's family in a video. Chief Jackson then attempted to join protesters in a march. St. Louis Alderman Antonio French told NBC News that Chief Jackson was only in the crowd about 30 seconds when riot cops tried to move in and protect the chief.

"Just them being out there pushing started stuff — it’s a complete misread of the situation," Alderman French said. "His very presence agitated the crowd." Many of those protesters, including French, are calling for Chief Jackson's resignation.

Speaking with the media late Saturday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he did not believe that Saturday night’s shooting was linked to the Michael Brown protests.

Earlier reports indicated the officer who was shot pursued two suspects, but new information from police on Sunday seemed to indicate there was only one suspect. The shooting occurred around 9:10 p.m. local time. The officer was on patrol by himself, police say, when he encountered a man at the rear of the Ferguson Community Center. The officer got out of his squad car to investigate, and, according to police, he pursued the man on foot. When he got in close range, the suspect turned with a handgun and shot the officer in the arm police say. The officer was treated overnight at a local hospital, and is expected to recover.

Police also say the officer did fire a few rounds, but it does not appear that the suspect was hit. Officials searched the area for an hour and a half, but did not find who they were looking for.

When asked late Saturday about reports from protesters in Ferguson that there was another shooting involving a younger man on Saturday night, Chief Belmar told reporters that he was unaware of any other shooting having occurred. 

But later Sunday morning, St. Louis County Police revealed an off-duty officer for the St. Louis City Police was fired on around 12:10 AM while driving his own vehicle west on Interstate 70 near its interchange with Interstate 170. Several occupants of another car were armed with handguns and started shooting at the off-duty officer's vehicle according to police. The vehicle was hit by several bullets, but the police say the only injuries the off-duty officer sustained were minor and caused by broken glass.

Authorities say it is unclear if the officer was targeted or if the attack was random.