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Pine Lawn police say St. Louis County officers put lives at risk

by Diana Zoga

KMOV.com

Posted on June 8, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 8 at 10:44 PM

What started as an undercover police surveillance operation became a shooting and pursuit in St. Louis County and Pine Lawn on Monday evening.

Watch our breaking news coverage on Monday here

St. Louis County Police say that their undercover officers were following suspects in a drug investigation. The undercover officers then watched as another car pulled up and began firing at the car undercover police were following. At some point, St. Louis County Police say they were targeted and began to return fire. The mystery car that drove in and started the shootout pulled away and has still not been located. Undercover officers then continued to pursue the original suspects through the streets of Pine Lawn.

Two suspects were shot, hospitalized, and are now out of the hospital and in jail. A third person, an innocent bystander, was shot in the street. We're told that person's injury was not life threatening.

Pine Lawn Police, who were not involved in the original undercover investigation, called a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Pine Lawn Police Lieutenant Daniel O'Connor said that the undercover St. Louis County officers mishandled the situation - saying the officers put innocent lives at risk by participating in the gun battle between moving cars.

Lt. O'Connor also said that officers never notified Pine Lawn of an investigation in their venue and that one of the Pine Lawn officers responding to the shooting almost mistook an undercover cop for a suspect. Lt. O'Connor says the Pine Lawn officer nearly fired on a man who was shooting out of an open window. According to the Pine Lawn Police, that man was actually an uncover St. Louis County officer in an unmarked car.

There were also two children in the car that was pursued by police. The four-year-old and four-month-old are the children of the driver (one of the suspects who was shot and is now in jail). Pine Lawn police say the children were not hurt have been referred to state family services.

Pine Lawn is calling for St. Louis County Police to investigate the handling of the case by the undercover officers.

A St. Louis County spokesman said that he could not react to Pine Lawn's reaction tonight.

Meanwhile, Laron Crenshaw and Antoine Bankhead are each being held on charges of assault on a law enforcement officer (2 counts), armed criminal action (2 counts), endangering the welfare of a child (2 counts), and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Diana Zoga is a general assignment reporter at News 4. You can reach her at dzoga@kmov.com or follow Diana on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/DIANAZOGA

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