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Officer injured in shooting near Rosauers in Missoula

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:02:55 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 27 2013 11:13:57 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Officials confirm a shooting off Reserve Street happened during a drug bust. 

A call went out around 2:20 p.m. Wednesday for the shooting near Gold's Gym and Rosauers off Reserve St. in Missoula. 

Investigators say the suspect shot a Missoula police officer.  The officer returned fire and hit the suspect. 

Neither the police officer nor the suspect is said to have life-threatening injuries. 

Wednesday evening officers tracked down and detained two additional people of interest.  

Missoula County Sheriff's Deputy Paige Pavalone tells us officers are detaining the two in connection to today's case but, we still are trying to pinpoint their involvement.   

The two were pulled over shortly after 5 p.m. near the intersection of Mullan and Flynn Street.  Sheriff's deputies took them downtown for questioning. 

A check of the jail roster Wednesday evening showed no bookings that would match their description. 

Pavalone tells NBC Montana the shootout was sparked from a drug investigation involving the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. 

“HIDTA is a conglomeration of different organizations including the Missoula City Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff's Department, the FBI and other investigating agencies,” says Pavalone.  

She says there were two officers involved in the undercover drug bust -- one Missoula police officer and one Missoula county deputy, although the deputy did not fire his weapon. 

“Both of those guys, I want to emphasize, were both drug detectives,” Pavalone tells us.  “They were not in uniform and it was a drug operation.” 

Pavalone explains that the suspect fired at the police officer and hit him; the officer then returned fire and shot the suspect.   

“No life-threatening injuries and everybody who was involved in this shooting was transported to the hospital,” Pavalone says.  

This is the second incident like this in five months. The last time was in June when a Missoula County sheriff's deputy shot at a drug suspect who didn't follow orders during an undercover drug sting. 

That suspect was shot in the leg as he tried to run away but survived. 

As for this incident, Pavalone says she's just thankful nobody was killed. 

NBC Montana also spent time tracking reaction to the shooting on Wednesday, speaking with customers at nearby businesses and residents in a neighborhood across from the scene.

"It's kind of scary to know that you're going to get some food for a Thanksgiving meal and...things are going on, people getting shot,” said Missoula resident Josh Reed, who had been shopping at Rosauers when he saw officers working the perimeter nearby.

Residents of a nearby neighborhood found it hard to believe what had unfolded steps from their front door. Pat Beers tells NBC Montana he was spending time with his four young grandchildren when the shots rang out.

“My wife and I and the kids heard gunshots. I looked out the side of the house here through the window,” said Beers.

Beers said in the past, he had never had to worry about guns going off near his house.  

“[We were] talking about that just now after this happened. You know, what to do, keep the doors locked.  Keep the kids inside. They play outside quite a bit during the summer and we're kind of worried about it. It's never happened before and its kind of scary. Te thought we lived in a pretty good neighborhood, but I don't think we do anymore,” said Beers.

Next door, a man told NBC Montana that his brother had been sleeping when the shots rang out.

“My brother had heard what he thought was firecrackers, kids setting off something, and he woke up about an hour and a half ago and he didn't hear the police arrive,” said Jay Devore.

Folks looking to see video of reaction to Wednesday's incident can click here.

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The following information was released by the Missoula police department just after 5 p.m. Wednesday:

A Missoula police officer was wounded by gunfire this afternoon, during an operation executed by the Missoula joint drug task force. The operation took place near the 2300 block of S. Reserve St.  The injured officer returned fire and struck one of the suspects who also suffered a minor wound.  Neither injury is life-threatening. 

The injured suspect is currently in custody and investigation into the incident is underway to apprehend a second suspect who is at large, and to determine if there is an on-going public safety risk. 

The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation is in route to Missoula to conduct the follow up, investigation.  More information may be available at a later time.