NORMANDY, Missouri — Authorities say an 18-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound to his face in a St. Louis suburb after firing at officers Wednesday afternoon.
It’s unclear how the man sustained the injury. The Normandy Police Department said in a statement that “it appears at this time that the male was not struck by law enforcement gunfire.” However, people claiming to have witnessed the incident said otherwise.
The department said that after police were called in to help find a “suicidal subject” whose family was attempting to calm him down, the man fired at the officers. When officers attempted to speak to the man, he allegedly removed a gun from his waistband and began firing at them. After deploying a Taser, which had no effect, the officers returned fire, the department said.
The man fled, and another gunshot was heard out of the officers’ sight, according to the statement. The officers then reportedly found him on the ground, unresponsive.
A woman who says she witnessed the shooting, but asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about safety and the potential repercussions of speaking publicly, told HuffPost that she saw two officers on the scene with the teenager.
Looking out her window, the witness said she saw the man — who was wearing a red, orange and yellow jacket — turn to face the officers, who were just six or seven feet away from him, when one of the cops shot him in the face.
“We heard approximately six gunshots ring out. I yelled and told my daughter to get down,” she said.
“He was right at eye level as [the officer] shot him,” the witness continued. “It was not a suicide. At all.”
Deron Smith told the St. Louis Dispatch that he saw the teenager running from the officers, but that he didn’t appear to be holding a gun because he was using two hands to scale a fence. Police, however, said at a press conference Wednesday that a gun was recovered at the scene.
A media advisory from the St. Louis Police Department, which said it is helping the Normandy Police Department investigate the incident, described it as an “officer-involved shooting.”
The man was taken to the hospital and is in critical condition, the Normandy Police Department’s statement said.
Jermell Simpson, the victim’s father, was distraught.
“I apologize for cussin’, but that’s the only damn son I got,” he said in a video posted to Instagram. “When he started running, Ferguson [police] started shooting.” (A photographer at the St. Louis American, which partners with HuffPost in the region, confirmed the man in the video is the father.)
While the shooting took place in Normandy, several witnesses said some police on the scene were wearing Ferguson uniforms. A spokeswoman for the Normandy Police Department told St. Louis Public Radio that while Ferguson officers were present, it was a Normandy officer who fired at the man.
“We even told Ferguson … we had everything under control,” Simpson says in the video.
Ferguson is the town where Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, was shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson last year, sparking protests across the nation. Wilson did not face charges in Brown’s killing.
Normandy has a population of about 5,000 that is more than two-thirds black, though the town’s police force is predominantly white.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
HuffPost’s Mariah Stewart reported from Normandy thanks to reader support of the Ferguson Fellowship. Click here to back more reporting in the region. Read Stewart’s profile of Normandy, published last April.