A police officer was shot and unrest reignited in a tense neighborhood Wednesday night, hours after a grand jury cleared a white police officer in last month’s fatal shooting of a black motorist.
Early reports said dozens of gunshots were heard in the same area shaken by a rampage of arson and looting on Oct. 24. Witnesses said tear gas filled the air late Wednesday, as did shouts of “Get down, get down.” Some rocks and bottles were thrown.
The magnitude of the unrest was not immediately clear. At least two dozen squad cars sped to the scene and blocked many intersections as officers worked to contain any new trouble.
“We’re trying to get control of this as quickly as we can,” said Bill Daniel, a police spokesman.
Gov. Lawton Chiles and state police monitored the disturbance, but remained hopeful that state intervention could be avoided, said April Herrle, a Chiles spokeswoman.
“If the resources are needed, they’ll be there,” she said. “We don’t expect them to be necessary, though.”
The Florida National Guard remains on alert from an executive order signed by Chiles after the previous disturbance. The order, expiring tonight, enables police to activate the guard if needed.
A spokesman at Bayfront Medical Center said the wounded officer, Keith Glasgow, 39, had been shot in the leg. He was treated and released. Glasgow, who is white, is an 18-year veteran of the police force.
The shooting apparently occurred in front of a house used by the National People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, a black separatist group that has talked of killing the officers involved in last month’s shooting.
Earlier in the day, the grand jury exonerated officer James Knight, 34, in the shooting death three weeks ago of TyRon Lewis, 18. Knight is white; Lewis was black.
That incident sparked a widespread disturbance then that involved hundreds of people and left more than a dozen injured and 29 buildings in cinders. It caused $5 million in damage in a 1-square-mile area south of downtown St. Petersburg.
Some activists claimed that Lewis had been “assassinated,” but the grand jury ruled that the officer acted with “a reasonable fear of imminent death … that he was in danger of being run over, or thrust into oncoming traffic.”