Authorities: Officers targeted in three states in aftermath of police killings of black men

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Police say officers have been targeted in Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri in aftermath of police killings of black men.

Authorities in Tennessee: Highway gunman motivated by police shootings

Authorities in Tennessee say a man who opened fire on a highway in Tennessee targeted police officers and others because he was troubled by incidents involving black people and law enforcement officers.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says in a news release that initial conversations with the suspect revealed he was troubled by incidents across the U.S. The TBI says the suspect is black; the shooting victims are all white.

Investigators say Scott killed one person and wounded three others, including a police officer. Scott had two guns early Thursday morning when he shot at a motel in Bristol, Tennessee, and then shot indiscriminately at several passing cars. When he was confronted by police, he fired at the three officers who responded.

The suspect was shot by the officers and is being treated at a hospital. He has not yet been charged.

St. Louis-area officer shot in traffic stop; man arrested

A suburban St. Louis police officer was "ambushed" during a traffic stop Friday and shot at least once, wounding him critically, authorities said.

The suspect in custody is a man in his 30s and likely will be charged in the shooting, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference. Authorities did not provide the race or identity of the officer or the suspect.

Ballwin Police Chief Kevin Scott described the shooting, saying that the officer was walking back to his car after the initial conversation during the traffic stop when the motorist followed him and fired at least three shots. The shooting was captured on video, he said.

"Make no mistake: We believe during this investigation that Ballwin officer was ambushed, period," Belmar said. "It's an unfortunate state of events we're dealing with right now."

Scott said the shooting, which happened hours after five officers were killed and seven were wounded in Dallas during a protest, is being investigated and that the officer had no opportunity to pull his service revolver, saying he "was completely helpless at this point."

"I don't know about the motive at this point at all, "Scott added.

Belmar told KMOV-TV earlier that a gun was recovered at the scene, though it wasn't clear to whom it belonged.

Scott says the officer, who has not been identified, has been one for nine years, two of which with the Ballwin department.

The suspect was on probation for a weapons violation in St. Louis, Belmar said, had been on probation for a stolen vehicle in Oklahoma and was picked up for a firearm violation in California. He was paroled in 2015.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's spokeswoman Channing Grate said he would not leave for an eight-day overseas trade mission Friday as planned and instead would return to Missouri from an event in Philadelphia. Nixon said he was concerned about recent events, including the fatal Dallas police shootings and the shooting of the Ballwin officer.

The west St. Louis County police force in 30,000-resident Ballwin has 51 commissioned officers and "will serve the community through professional conduct at all times without prejudice or bias," according to the department's website.

Three times since 2005, the suburb, which is roughly 90 percent white, has been named by Money magazine as among the nation's 100 best places to live due to, among other things, its low crime rate.

Authorities: 911 caller ambushed, shot officer in Georgia

A man who called 911 to report a car break-in Friday ambushed a south Georgia police officer dispatched to the scene, sparking a shootout in which both the officer and suspect were wounded, authorities said. Both are expected to survive.

The shooting in Valdosta, just north of the Georgia-Florida state line, happened hours after five police officers were killed Thursday night during an ambush in Dallas. Despite saying the officer was lured to the scene by the gunman, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said there was no immediate evidence the shootings were related.

"We're putting pieces together to understand what happened and why, developing witnesses," said Scott Dutton, spokesman for the GBI, which is handling the case at the request of local police. "There's nothing to indicate there's a connection to that."

Officer Randall Hancock was shot multiple times as he responded to a 911 call about a car break-in outside the Three Oaks Apartments just after 8 a.m. Friday, Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said at a news conference.

"The officer called out on the radio screaming for assistance," Childress said, and officers from multiple law enforcement agencies swarmed the apartment complex.

The GBI later identified the suspected gunman as 22-year-old Stephen Paul Beck and said it was Beck who also placed the 911 call. Both Childress and Dutton identified the suspect as an Asian male. Charges against Beck were still pending Friday as he was being treated at a Florida hospital, Dutton said.

The officer is white, according to Valdosta city spokeswoman Sementha Mathews.

Dutton said one gunshot hit the officer in the abdomen, just below his protective vest. Other shots hit Hancock's vest. The officer fired back and wounded the suspect.

Hancock underwent surgery at a local hospital and was stable Friday as he rested with his family by his side, Childress said. The suspect was also considered stable, he said.

"I'm relieved that my officer is fine," Childress said. "I am also equally relieved that the offender is going to make it."

The police chief said Hancock was wearing a body camera, and its video footage had been turned over to the GBI.

Childress declined to comment on any possible motive when asked about his officer being shot so soon after the Dallas attacks. The Dallas officers were shot during a protest over the recent killings of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana.

"You start to wonder," the police chief said. "But any motive of why this happened this morning, it would be speculation."