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Man with toy pistol shot by Ill. police

By Rickeena J. Richards

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Police responding to a report of an armed man outside a convenience store Sunday shot the man when he pulled what appeared to be a handgun from his waistband, only to discover it was a toy gun, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Jim Morrisey said.

The man was rushed to a local hospital after the shooting Sunday afternoon. Belleville Police Chief William Clay said the man was conscious when he was transported to the hospital. Morrisey said the only information he had about the man's condition was that he was in surgery later Sunday. No further information was available.

The light gray gun and the man's wallet were still lying in the parking lot where the man was shot as police from Belleville, Swansea, the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, and the Illinois State Police worked at the scene Sunday afternoon. Morrisey said the man was a 39-year-old man with a Belleville address, but they are uncertain whether the man lives at that address.

Morrisey said the St. Clair County 911 center got a call at 2:07 p.m. reporting a suspicous-looking black male who appeared to be armed in the parking lot of the Belleville Quick Stop at 1258 Lebanon Ave. Morrisey said the caller said the man looked as if he was going to rob the store.

Morrisey said officers spotted the man walking from the front of the store to its side parking lot when they arrived at the scene through a back alley that leads to the lot. He said they ordered the man to show his hands, and one of the officers shot him in the torso after he pulled the gun from his waist.

Clay said one of the two officers shot the man as he began raising his arm to "shooting mode," aiming the weapon at the officers. He said the officer fired one round to take the man down.

Clay and Morrisey were not releasing the name of the officer who shot the man. Morrisey said one of the officers was a probationary officer, meaning he was new on the force, and the other officer was his field trainer. Morrisey said a second Belleville squad car arrived at the scene after the shooting.

The officer who shot the man will be placed on administrative leave to comply with police policy and to "get his head together and give him some time," Clay said.

He said it was not clear whether the man ever entered the store, and employees said they hadn't noticed any suspicious customers in the store that day.

Employees Yolanda Halfhill, Terry Marino and Nick Patel said they haven't had any crime-related problems at the store recently. Halfhill said they were all inside the store at the time of the shooting and didn't see anything but police cars pulling into the parking lot.

Clay said he called state police to ensure an impartial investigation. Morrisey said the investigation's sole purpose is to look at the officer's involvement in the shooting, which he said is "justified" considering the circumstances.

"If an Illinois officer feels his life or the life of another officer is in danger, he's entitled to use his weapon," Morrisey said.

Copyright 2008 The Belleville News-Democrat

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