N.C. officer's vest stops round to chest, shooter sought

Maggie Sartin
News & Record
GREENSBORO, N.C. — A Greensboro police officer was shot Friday evening on East Market Street, and police set up a wide area to look for the shooter.

Capt. Gary Hastings said the officer, whose name was not released, was shot during a brief struggle with a man behind John's Curb Market, 2000 E. Market St.

Hastings said the officer was shot in his bulletproof vest and sustained only minor injuries. He was released from Moses Cone hospital about 9:30 p.m.

The shooting happened about 5:40 p.m. when two officers, on routine patrol in an unmarked cruiser, spotted a man behind the curb market.

Hastings, the commander of the department's Criminal Investigations Division, said the two officers, who are assigned with the department's Tactical Special Enforcement Unit that aims to curb drugs and robbery-related crimes, approached the man and spoke with him briefly.

A short fight broke out between the man and officers, and the man pulled out a handgun and shot one of the officers.

Officers returned fire as the man fled, Hastings said, but it was not known if he was shot.

"We want to find anybody who shoots anybody," Hastings said.

"This is a serious act of violence. If someone confronts an armed police officer, who knows what they'll do to an unarmed citizen."

About 30 to 40 officers from various agencies the surrounded the area around the site Friday evening, cordoning off an estimated square mile to search for the man. Police called the Highway Patrol to send up one of its helicopters to aid in the search.

Greensboro's tactical team was called in, as were Guilford County sheriff's deputies.

Roads blocked included Gillespie Street and McConnell Road. Some residents in the area who were trying to get back to their homes were kept outside the police perimeter for about an hour. Police later escorted some to their homes.

Isa Abuzuaiter, who owns John's Curb Market, said employees told him that somebody dropped the man off behind the building and that's when the police pulled up and approached the man.

"You've got to start at the house working with these kids and it's got to be a community effort" to curb violence, said Abuzuaiter, who has been trying to work with police about crime in the East Market corridor.

The shooter is described by police as a black male, about 20 years old with medium-length dreadlocks. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans and seen running south from the business.

Hastings said that some people in the area had reported seeing a man matching the suspect's description in the area shortly after the shooting with blood on his pants, though he couldn't confirm whether the suspect was injured in the shootout. Police did not have the shooter's identity late Friday night.

Hastings said for anyone in the immediate area of the shooting to call 911 if they see anything suspicious.

The manhunt left many residents angry that they were being kept away from their homes.

"I understand a cop got shot and they've got to find the dude... (but) I think if you live over here they should look in your car and let you go home," said Janice Ellis, who waited three hours to go to her home on Gant Street so she could report to work Friday night.

Hastings said he expected officers to be on the scene well into the night, making sure the area was safe before allowing residents to return home.

"We want to make sure it's absolutely safe for neighbors to return to their residences," Hastings said. "Hopefully we'll apprehend this suspect and things will return back to normal."

A city bus was called in as a waiting area for residents to stay warm while police searched through nearby neighborhoods.

Copyright 2007 The Greensboro News-Record

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