BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Three Buffalo police officers were hit by gunfire Tuesday after a motorist fled a rush-hour traffic stop and led officers on a long chase through the city’s streets, while shots fired from the vehicle blasted through windows of the pursuing patrol cars, authorities said.
The wild chase ended at an intersection in front of a police station, where officers shot and wounded the driver.
None of the officers’ injuries were life-threatening, police said, and no civilians on the street were hit by the flying bullets. One officer was saved from serious harm by a bulletproof vest. The other two were expected to make a full recovery.
The wounded motorist was undergoing surgery.
“This was a very brazen situation with a suspect shooting from a vehicle at police officers…. a very, very dangerous situation,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown at a news conference that took place at the hospital where the officers were taken.
Many details of the chase were still being sorted out by investigators, but authorities said it began around 6 p.m. when a vehicle that had been pulled over for a traffic stop suddenly drove off, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said.
As police pursued, the vehicle slowed to let someone out. After the passenger exited, gunfire started coming from the car.
Bullets continued to fly as officers chased the vehicle through the city, occasionally hitting their mark. One officer was hit in the arm. Another, in a different car, was wounded badly enough to require surgery. A third pursuing officer in another vehicle was hit in the vest.
A video posted on social media by one bystander showed the end of the pursuit: Officers took defensive positions with weapons drawn as sirens wailed, and then sent multiple volleys of shots at either a vehicle or a person who couldn’t be seen on camera.
Leslie Thomas, 64, lives in an apartment overlooking the scene. She was watching the news when she heard what turned out to be gunfire.
“I heard about 10 shots. I said ‘What’s going on?’ It didn’t dawn on me that it was shots but it kept repeating and repeating so I ran to my window,” she said. She saw numerous police cars, lights flashing and watched four police officers pull a man from a black vehicle and handcuff him. He appeared to fall to the street where several other officers surrounded him.
Officers blocked off the streets around the intersection where the chase ended. Evidence markers could be seen in the street.
“These police officers are … going into gunfire, literally, they are going into the danger to make this community safer,” Gramaglia said. “They did their jobs, they did it with honor and respect today and thank God that they are all going to go home.”
In addition to the wounded suspect, one other person was also in custody, authorities said.
Police didn’t name either of the people under arrest and said they were still collecting information, and couldn’t yet say how many people were in the fleeing car.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Deepti Hajela contributed from New York City.