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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A city police officer was saved when his bulletproof vest stopped a shot fired by a gunman who wanted to "kill an officer" but was instead wounded by return fire, police said.
"The intent of Tiant Mitchell was to kill an officer," police Chief Nate Harper said at a news conference about Friday's shooting involving Officer Andrew Baker.
Baker responded to a call reporting shots fired about 5 a.m. in the city's Stanton Heights neighborhood, where three city officers were fatally shot in April 2009 by a man now on death row.
Harper said Mitchell has a long criminal record despite being just 25 years old, and police believe he's involved with a street gang. Mitchell was fighting with his wife and aimed a gun at her and their 1-year-old child earlier Friday morning before the woman, Shawnece Moore, 36, convinced Mitchell to walk with her to buy cigarettes to calm him down, Harper said.
During the walk, Mitchell told her he wanted to kill a police officer, Harper said.
At one point, Mitchell fired his gun in the air three times and when the woman expressed concern that the police might be called Mitchell reportedly said, "Let the police come," Harper said.
Baker arrived moments later and found Mitchell and his wife standing in the street. Harper said Mitchell fired at Baker's car, hitting it three times in the hood and shattering a headlight before Baker emerged and was immediately shot in the chest.
Saved by his vest, Baker took cover and returned fire hitting Mitchell in the buttocks, Harper said. Mitchell's wife was shot in the hand and police believe she was struck by one of the shots Baker fired.
Online court records don't list an attorney for Mitchell, who was taken to UPMC Presbyterian hospital under police guard, where he was expected to recover. Mitchell's wife was also treated at that hospital.
Baker will be on paid leave while police and the district attorney review the shooting. Harper said Baker also will be reassigned, but not because he did anything wrong.
Rather, the chief noted this is the fourth time this year — and the third this month — that Baker has been forced to return fire in a life-threatening situation. Baker patrols out of Zone 5, which covers several of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.
Baker fired one shot at a car he stopped for speeding in February, after the driver sped away nearly hitting Baker and another officer. On Sept. 9, Baker and other officers were shot at and returned fire while responding to a shooting. On Sept. 29, Baker shot at a man who allegedly tried to run him over at the end of a police chase, Harper said.
Baker is a five-year veteran who has received a citation for helping rescue a woman from a flash flood that killed four people in August 2011.