A Fort Worth man told police he opened fire on two burglary suspects Thursday to protect the lives of police officers. One of the people he thought was an officer was actually a citizen ride-along, investigators say.
Police were dispatched to a home on the 10000 block of Tulare Lane for a burglary call at about 3:30 p.m.
The responding officer had a civilian observer in his car as part of a ride-along program. As the officer arrived at the scene, two people believed to be burglars were seen trying to leave the home.
One of the suspects got out of the vehicle and attempted to leave on foot, police said. Police said Friday that both the officer and the ride-along pursued the suspect on foot. The officer then returned to her police car.
The burglary suspect who was still in the getaway car began driving toward the police cruiser, but did not make contact with the squad car, police said.
An armed neighbor who was aware of the burglary and standing nearby thought the lives of both the officer and the citizen -- whom he thought was a police officer -- were in danger.
"According to the neighbor, he felt like that the suspects [were] going to run over the plains-clothes detective who was in reality a citizen ride-in," Maj. Paul Henderson said.
The man opened fire on both burglary suspects, hitting them both, police said.
Fort Worth police originally said the responding officer had remained in the police car the entire time but now say that further investigation revealed that she pursued the suspect on foot.
Officer Cliff Miller told reporters on Friday that the female officer began chasing the suspect on foot. The ride-along then got out and actually passed the officer on foot, he said. The officer then returned to her squad car and caught up with the pursuit.
Miller said investigators have not determined if the officer asked the ride-along for assistance in the pursuit.
Police said the man and female officer did not know each other prior to the ride-along. Investigators are working to determine if the officer followed proper procedure and policy regarding the ride-along.
Police would only identify the ride-along as a 31-year-old man. They declined to reveal his name because he is a witness in the case.
Ride-alongs are required to sign a waiver to participate and are instructed before leaving with an officer that they are to never leave the vehicle unless that officer says they can.
The shooting was originally believed to have involved Fort Worth police officers, but the officer never fired a shot.
The two burglary suspects were taken to John Peter Smith Hospital. One suspect, who was shot in the leg and hip, remained at the hospital Friday in good condition. The second suspect, who was shot in the arm, was treated, released and taken to jail.
Fort Worth police say both burglary suspects are 17 and are being charged with burglary of a habitation. The driver is also charged with felony evading arrest, and the other suspect that ran away is charged with a misdemeanor charge of evading arrest.
Police said the teens broke into the home through a back door using a baseball bat. Officers said they stole a television, two Xbox video game consoles and a video camera.
Fort Worth police questioned the neighbor who fired the shots for several hours but did not arrest him. Police are handing over the case to the district attorney's office to decide if the neighbor will face charges.
The police department said it would now review its citizen ride-along program. People participating in ride-alongs are only supposed to watch, not become actively involved, police said.
"We don't like for that to happen," Henderson said.
NBC 5's Scott Gordon and Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.