AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama police officer who was shot multiple times after responding to reports of an armed robbery was recovering Saturday, while two suspects are believed to have died in a fire following a shootout.
The incident began about 5:30 p.m. Friday, the Opelika-Auburn News reported.
Auburn Officer Justin Sanders stopped a vehicle that fit the description of one driven by the suspects. As Sanders approached, police said the man opened fire, striking the 30-year-old officer at least four times. Sanders, a five-year veteran of the department, was hospitalized in stable condition, Police Capt. Lorenza Dorsey said.
The suspects fled and an ensuing manhunt tracked them to a nearby apartment complex.
Dorsey said heavily armed officers in tactical gear surrounded the building. Gunfire then erupted, filling the air with noise and smoke. Residents from several blocks away heard the commotion, while nearby Auburn University issued warnings and a lockdown for the veterinary school.
Residents fled the scene as the gunfire continued. “Get back! Bullets are flying everywhere!” one officer warned bystanders.
“It sounded like fireworks going off,” one man told the Opelika-Auburn News.
A woman told the newspaper when she heard the gunfire she took cover in her bathtub.
Officers tossed canisters of tear gas into the apartment, which caught fire, Dorsey said. The two suspects refused to exit. Authorities said their bodies were later found in the rubble.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris identified one of the suspects as Christopher James Wallace, 38. The identity of the other person, a woman, has not been released.
Two people believed to be relatives of Wallace exited the apartment and were taken into custody as officers were trying to get the suspects from the apartment. After the fire was extinguished, authorities found the suspects’ bodies in a back room of the apartment.
Harris said the bodies will be taken to the medical examiner’s office at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery for an autopsy to determine the cause of death and positive identification.