A Red Bank police car blocks North Chamberlain Avenue Dec. 1, 2016 after an officer was shot three times by an unknown assailant while checking an abandoned building near the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Mission Avenue. The officer was treated at Erlanger Hospital and was released.

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Suspect in police officer shooting escapes massive manhunt

Chattanooga police shut down large swaths of the city for hours Thursday to search for the man who shot a police officer three times in Glenwood.

The shooter escaped the massive, five-hour manhunt. The officer survived the shooting and was released from Erlanger hospital after receiving treatment.

The officer was shot at 9:16 a.m. while he was checking for squatters at an abandoned house on Mission Avenue, police Chief Fred Fletcher said. The steep, dead-end street juts into the woods and is lined with squat brick houses.

A man left the vacant building and turned back to fire at the officer, Fletcher said. Neighbor David Oldham said he heard two shots, then a pause, then a volley of shots, perhaps nine or 10.

Fletcher could not say Thursday whether the officer fired at the shooter, and he declined to identify the officer out of concern for his safety.

"He was just attacked by somebody and I don't know why," Fletcher said. "His safety is my responsibility, and I'm not going to put his name out there."

The officer was alone during the shooting. At Erlanger after the shooting, officers put up crime scene tape around a patrol car parked outside the hospital, and the car was towed away by police later in the day.

Fletcher would not say whether the officer drove himself to the hospital, where the officer was hit or whether his bulletproof vest stopped any shots.

The manhunt began immediately after the shooting. Officers swarmed Glenwood Drive, searching on foot, in vehicles and with dogs. They combed through a thickly forested area behind the site of the shooting and went door-to-door checking houses. They shut down nearly all roads into and out of the neighborhood.

"I just saw police running back and forth, getting guns out of their trunks," said Tyerek Ball, a neighbor who woke to the wail of sirens.

A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter circled the site for hours, at one point joined by a second helicopter. A SWAT team surrounded a duplex near the corner of Wilcox Boulevard and Wheeler Avenue around 1:30 p.m. and ordered the occupants out. They put one man in handcuffs but later released him.

Officers also searched Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences after a report that someone who matched the shooter's description was inside the building around 4 p.m. The school was locked down during the search, and students were released to their parents afterward on a football field.

Despite the intense effort, law enforcement couldn't find the man and he has not been identified, Fletcher said. He described the shooter as a thin black male with a medium complexion, between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet tall. He was wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt with large cursive lettering, according to police.

A $6,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to his arrest.

Fletcher said the ground search was extensive and difficult, and he praised the cooperation among agencies — state, federal, county and city law enforcement were all involved. He said the search area included several vacant buildings.

Police called off the manhunt around 3 p.m., and Fletcher said officers would begin to pursue "investigative leads" instead.

"It's been a very grueling field search," he said. "The terrain here, as you see behind me, goes up the ridge, it is overgrown and very steep."

The attack marks the first shooting of a Chattanooga police officer this year. In July, two officers got into a shootout but were not wounded. In July 2015, Officer Dennis Pedigo was shot while responding to the July 16 terrorist attack.

Staff writer Steve Johnson contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.