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A police officer fatally shot a teen who opened fire in St. Louis on Wednesday night, officials said. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that the officer fired his weapon 17 times after “at least three” shots were fired at him. It was not immediately clear how many times the 18-year-old suspect was hit. The death sparked protests in the Shaw neighborhood in the south of the city. The incident occurred on the eve of demonstrations scheduled to take place in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police two months ago.

The six-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department was off-duty but in uniform and working a side security job at the time of the shooting. Dotson told reporters at a briefing early Thursday that a group of three men fled after spotting him. The officer gave chase and “physical altercation” occurred between the officer and a suspect, who was described as aged 18 and black. Dotson said the suspect then “fired at least three rounds at the police officer” before he returned fire. The officer was unharmed. Dotson said a 9mm Ruger was recovered at the scene. “An investigation will decide if the officer’s behavior was appropriate,” the police chief added. Angry crowds gathered in the aftermath of the incident and Dotson said several police cars were damaged during the demonstrations. Some people shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot” in reference to the fatal shooting of Brown by a white police officer, which led to weeks of sometimes violent unrest. Officer Darren Wilson has not been charged in Brown’s death. Ferguson is about 16 miles from the scene of the Wednesday’s shooting.