10/23/2006

One Ala. officer killed, one wounded in shooting

The Associated Press

FAIRFIELD, Ala. - A police officer sent to check on a suspicious vehicle in a Birmingham-area neighborhood was fatally shot as she stepped from her patrol car Monday, and a backup officer was wounded as he arrived at the scene seconds later.

Authorities who swarmed through Fairfield searching for suspects questioned at least one man, but there was no immediate word on any charges.

Officer Mary Smith, 48, who joined the Fairfield Police Department a few weeks ago after retiring from the police force in neighboring Birmingham, was responding to a citizen's call about a suspicious vehicle about 10:15 a.m. when she was shot.

Officer Erick Burpo, who arrived on the scene a few seconds later, was shot in the leg before he exited his car.

Police Chief Pat Mardis told The Birmingham News that Smith had managed to use her radio to call in part of a license plate number, and officers were searching for a vehicle described as a beige Ford pickup truck.

Mardis said Smith was shot in the chest and died at a hospital.

Police cars blocked roads searching for at least one more person, and officers went door to door looking for suspects with their handguns drawn and shotguns.

Education officials locked down a half-dozen schools in the area to keep anyone from getting inside during the manhunt.

The shooting scene was several blocks from Miles College. Ricky Lee, a spokesman for the school, said campus police, city officers and state troopers walked through buildings to make sure no suspects were on campus.

"We have stopped classes for the rest of the day, and the entrance and exits to the campus are locked," he said.

A brother of the wounded officer attends Miles, Lee said.

The shooting occurred a few miles from the scene of a shooting that claimed three police officers from neighboring Birmingham in June 2004.

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