Police: Wounded felon initiated gunfire striking officer

March 13, 2020 GMT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man hospitalized after exchanging gunfire with police has been charged with wounding a police sergeant, authorities said.

Kenneth Dewayne Whitehead, 40, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, news outlets reported Thursday.

Whitehead was one of three suspects arrested by police Wednesday after a traffic stop turned into a chase and shootout, leaving Whitehead and West Precinct Sgt. Anthony Wheeler wounded.

Birmingham police Sgt. Rod Mauldin said Wheeler, 35, was shot at least once in the leg during the foot chase. Authorities didn’t describe Whitehead’s injury but said both were being treated and neither injury was life-threatening.

Mauldin said Wheeler and another officer pulled over a truck that was hauling another vehicle. Birmingham Police Deputy Chief Scott Praytor said recent car thefts in the area had been committed using trucks with trailers __ or unmarked tow-trucks.

When the car stopped, Whitehead and another suspect, fled from the vehicle and a foot chase began, Praytor said.

During the pursuit, Wheeler tripped and Whitehead shot at him, Praytor said.

“He (the suspect) had the opportunity to escape,” Praytor said. “That just speaks to the mindset of some of the violent offenders we deal with out here.”

Wheeler and the other officer returned fire, Praytor said.

Wheeler is a 10-year veteran of the department. Whitehead is a convicted felon. Court records said he’s pleaded guilty to robbery and possession of marijuana and cocaine. Whitehead was last released from prison in April 2016.

It’s unclear whether Whitehead had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Wednesday’s shooting was the fifth in which a Birmingham police officer has been wounded in the past 14 months. The most recent was Det. John Finke, who was shot while responding to a robbery in Woodlawn. He survived.