ST. LOUIS (AP) — A 23-year-old man who St. Louis police say ambushed and opened fire on a uniformed sergeant was arrested Thursday and charged with four felonies in a shooting that the police chief has decried as an attempted assassination.
Prosecutors charged Dale LaVaughn Wolford Jr. with one count of assault on a law enforcement officer, alleging Wolford “attempted to kill or to cause serious physical injury” to the officer identified in court documents only as “Sergeant L.” Wolford also is charged with two counts of armed criminal action and one count of shooting a firearm from a motor vehicle.
Authorities believe Wolford was masked by a bandanna when he emerged from a car occupied by three other men before dawn Tuesday and fired a semiautomatic handgun into the private vehicle of the 39-year-old police sergeant. The officer, who was doing department-approved security work in the city’s tony Central West End neighborhood, returned fire.
The suspects’ car sped away, and the gunman fled on foot.
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The officer, who Police Chief Sam Dotson said was saved by his body armor that blocked a round fired into his chest, was treated at a hospital and released.
Wolford was jailed Thursday on $200,000 cash bond, and online court records did not show whether he has an attorney.
The suspected getaway driver, 27-year-old Edward Jerome Davis, remained jailed on $200,000 cash bond Thursday, a day after being charged with felony assault and armed criminal action.
Another suspect, an unidentified 18-year-old, surrendered to police Wednesday and has not been charged. His attorney, Jermaine Wooten, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his client was in the backseat of the car and had no role in the shooting.
“He’s as much a victim as the police officer,” Wooten said of the teenager, who he said had never previously been in trouble. “He was just riding and had no idea what was happening until all the shots were going off.”
Investigators were searching for a fourth suspect.
The motive for the attack was unclear. Dotson, the police chief, called it an ambush and said the goal was to “assassinate” the officer who, along with the four suspects, is black.
Robert Jauer, a St. Louis police investigator, wrote in a probable-cause statement attached to the criminal complaint against Davis that Davis admitted driving the getaway car and was in possession of that vehicle’s keys.
Online court records do not show whether Davis has an attorney.