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Officers and SWAT team members fill Wheeler Avenue Dec. 1, 2016, while searching for a man who shot a Chattanooga police officer three times as he was checking an abandoned building near the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Mission Avenue. The officer was treated at Erlanger hospital and was released.

This story was last updated at 7:12 p.m. with additional information.

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Police search for suspect in officer shooting

Police called off a massive manhunt for a suspect who shot a Chattanooga police officer around 3 p.m. today after searching for the suspect for more than five hours.

Shortly after calling off the search, a report of an individual matching the suspect's description at the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences sent police scrambling to lock down the school and conduct a room-by-room search while parents waited. 

About a dozen police cars rushed to the school around 3:30 p.m., closing off Third Street.

Students were locked down in their classrooms while police officers searched through the large four-story structure.

"We had a report of someone matching the description of the person who shot the police officer, in the building," Hamilton County Interim School Superintendent Kirk Kelly said. "It is probably just a student, but we are acting out of an excess of caution."

Police did not find any suspicious people at the school matching the description of the man they were looking for, and they have no indication that the suspect was ever at the school. Kelly believes a former student visiting the school matched the description of the suspect, and that's what triggered the search.

By 4 p.m., school officials were releasing students to the adjacent football stadium, where they were signed out to their parents, about 150 of whom were waiting in the rear of the school. All students are safe and accounted for. 

The lockdown was officially lifted around 5 p.m.

Some parents complained about a lack of information from school officials.

"My son texted me at 3 p.m. that the school was on lockdown," said one parent, who asked that her name not be used. "I got a text from the school system at 4 p.m." 

She did not know the school was surrounded by police officers until she arrived to pick up her child, she said.

The suspect has not been captured and a person who was put in handcuffs near the corner of Wilcox Boulevard and Wheeler Avenue has been released. 

The officer was shot three times around 9:30 a.m. today at 1005 Mission Avenue. He has been treated and released from a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Police are offering a $6,000 reward for information that leads to the suspect's arrest.

The officer was alone while checking out an abandoned house at the intersection of Mission and Glenwood streets about 9:24 a.m. when a man left the building and turned back to fire at the officer, police Chief Fred Fletcher said. 

Fletcher is not identifying the officer out of concern for his safety, he said. He could not say whether the officer returned fire. 

Fletcher described the suspect as a black male between between 5'10'' and 6'0'' tall, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt.

"We need the community to help us look for him," he said. The suspect does not pose a danger to the community, he said.

Fletcher said the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration along with all local law enforcement agencies are helping with the investigation.

Authorities blocked off many streets surrounding the scene of the shooting, and a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter circled the area. Officers have also deployed K-9 units to assist in the search.

Officers went door to door checking houses after the shooting, and multiple SWAT teams from multiple agencies have been deployed throughout the search area.

At one point this morning, a second helicopter joined the search.

"Our primary concern is taking this violent bad guy off the street," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said he did not know any specific reason the officer was checking the house.

"A lot of bad stuff goes on in abandoned houses," he said. "We check them regularly — that is just good community policing."

Police also emphasized that anyone who helps the suspect can be charged with aiding and abetting a crime and could face criminal charges themselves.

A police spokesman said the officer's family visited him in the hospital this morning. He said he hoped to be able to release the officer's identity shortly. The officer was released from the hospital before noon today.

The officer was apparently wearing a vest that can stop some handgun bullets, but the spokesman said he did not know where the officer was shot.

Fletcher asked anyone with any information about the shooting to call the police department at 423-698-2525.

This is a developing story. Stick with the Times Free Press for more information.

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