A black off-duty officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department was shot by a white officer Wednesday night while trying to assist with some suspected car thieves, CBS News reports. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a stolen car crashed near the off-duty officer's home, and he came outside with his service weapon to help. Two officers ordered him to the ground, and he complied. Once they recognized him as an 11-year veteran of the department, they told him to get up and walk toward them. As he was doing that, a fourth officer arrived on the scene and shot the off-duty officer in the arm. The police department says the late-arriving officer was "fearing for his safety" and didn't recognize the off-duty officer.
The unnamed officer who was shot in the arm was released from the hospital Thursday. His attorney, Rufus Tate Jr., says the shooting is a "real problem," Fox 2 reports. Tate says a "black professional in law enforcement" was "treated as an ordinary black guy on the street." He notes there's no evidence in the police report that the off-duty officer posed any sort of threat, and yet the officer who shot him is said to have feared for his safety. "There is this perception that a black man is automatically feared," Tate says. The chief of police had originally blamed the shooting on the off-duty officer getting caught in the crossfire between officers and suspects. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating. (Read more police shooting stories.)