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Pittsburgh Officer, Suspect Wounded in Shootout

A Pittsburgh police officer and a fleeing suspect were critically wounded in a gun battle overnight in the East End, acting Chief Regina McDonald said early Thursday.

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Bullets hit the officer several times in his protective vest and his shoulder as he and another officer chased a man who had crashed into a wall following a chase on Apple Street.

Officer Morgan Jenkins, an 8-year-veteran, was out of surgery but in critical condition Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

Doctors were able to remove a bullet fragment that was lodged close to his spine, she said.

"We were happy to hear about that," Richard said.

Police shot the suspect, identified as James Robert Hill, 24, of Homewood, several times. He was in critical condition at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, McDonald said. The other officer, Michelle Auge, a 13-year veteran, broke two fingers, according to a police memo McDonald issued to the bureau.

Police charged Hill with attempted homicide, fleeing police, assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and illegal gun possession.

The incident began when the officers from the Highland Park station were patrolling at North Lang Avenue and Upland Street and started following a speeding car about 1:30 a.m. The vehicle turned right onto Apple and crashed into a wall, McDonald said.

Hill got out of the car and fought with the officers, McDonald said.

One of them tried to use a Taser on him but it had no effect and Hill broke free and ran, McDonald said. As he ran, he began firing shots at the officers, she said.

Police placed the officers on administrative leave, the normal procedure following an officer-involved shooting. Homicide detectives are investigating, she said.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss visited with officers and others at Presby Thursday morning following the shooting.

"The police bureau is here in force," Huss said. "You just rely on one another to get through it."

Attorney Milton Raiford, who is representing Hill, said the man is in surgery and was in critical condition.

"Emotions are high on every side," Raiford said. "The sensitive thing to do is pray that the officer is OK and pray that Mr. Hill is OK."

Hill has a history of firearms, assault and drug arrests dating back to when he turned 18.

Pittsburgh police arrested Hill in October 2007 for illegally possessing a firearm. He spent about a month in jail before being released; Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen found him not guilty in Sept. 2008, court records show.

In January 2009, Pittsburgh police arrested Hill for illegally possessing a firearm, resisting arrest, simple assault and terroristic threats. He posted a $10,000 bond the same day, court records show.

Three months later while out on bail and awaiting trial, Pittsburgh police arrested Hill on May 9, 2009 on charges of aggravated assault, terroristic threats and simple assault. He again posted bail the same day, court records show.

A few weeks later on May 24, police arrested Hill for illegally possessing a firearm, receiving stolen property and possession of marijuana, court records show. A judge set his bail at $25,000, which he posted on Aug. 10, 2009.

Hill negotiated a plea deal in February 2010 and on May 5 of that year Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman sentenced him to three to six years in prison on the firearms charges and a concurrent 15 to 30 months on the May 2009 aggravated assault charge with an additional two years of probation.

Court records show the other charges were either withdrawn or dismissed.

"We're very fortunate that it wasn't worse," Huss said of the overnight shootout. "It goes to show you the dangers they face. This is getting more and more frequent."

Another officer was wounded in a gun battle in Zone 5 in March.

Officer Christopher Kertis, a two-year veteran, was shot twice in the left leg after chasing Dante Bonner, 18, at Fifth Avenue and McPherson in East Liberty on March 17. Kertis returned fire, striking Bonner several times in his upper torso. Kertis also had gunshot shrapnel in his leg and foot and broke both of his wrists.

Copyright 2013 - The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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