There was absolute chaos in Alabama on Wednesday, with three officer-involved shootings in less than five hours.

The latest was in Gardendale, where a man was shot and wounded.

That incident started just after 11 p.m. at the rear entrance to First Baptist Church.

According to ALEA State Bureau of Investigation Lt. Jon Riley, a Gardendale officer was called to the church parking lot to investigate a report of a suspicious vehicle.

When he got there, he found four people standing outside of the vehicle.  One of them was armed with a gun.

That man, according to police, jumped into a vehicle and then tried to run over the officer – who opened fire at the vehicle.

That suspect crashed a short distance away on Mt. Olive Road at Mountain Crest Parkway.

The suspect was found injured and rushed to UAB Hospital’s Trauma Center.

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We don’t know how badly he was injured – but the officer was not hurt.  It does appear he was shot by the officer.

In the meantime, the other three people that were standing outside the vehicle with the suspect are being questioned by agents.

None of them were in the vehicle with the suspect when he fled.

The SBI is leading the investigation into the officer-involved shooting, but Gardendale police will be handling any charges against the suspects involved.

That shooting happened less than five hours after a dramatic shootout between Birmingham police and a robbery suspect in downtown Birmingham.

It started around 6:30 p.m. in downtown Birmingham Wednesday evening, and left an officer severely injured and a man suspected of robbing a downtown supermarket dead.

North Precinct officers were dispatched to a robbery in progress at the Family Supermarket, which is a family grocery store on 23rd Street North.

According to Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith, when police arrived they saw the suspect leaving the store and tried to stop him.

He then pulled out a handgun and opened fire, shooting Officer Cullen Stafford multiple times.

Smith says Stafford was rushed to a hospital by fellow officers, who were also met with gunfire upon arrival.

The shootout took place over at least five city blocks in a number of different locations, finally ending when police killed the suspect.

Stafford was hospitalized and was out of surgery by 10 p.m. – which was just two hours before his 36th birthday.

According to Sgt. Johnny Williams, the surgery went well – but Stafford will need several more surgeries.

The police chief says a second officer was also hurt in a fall, but is expected to be just fine.

Officer Cullen Stafford in 2017

Officer Cullen Stafford in 2017

According to AL.com, Stafford and another officer were seriously injured in June 2017 when fleeing homicide suspects crashed into their patrol cruiser.

The suspect, whose name has not yet been released, continued to fire at police and ultimately was killed in their return fire.

“It’s very difficult for everyone, but this is a very tough job,’’ Smith said.  “We have officers who are here who we’ve provided a lot of training to, a lot of support. We’re going to continue support them throughout this process, just like we did throughout the time we lost Sgt. Carter.”

 

He said thanks to training, the officers involved were able to keep things from being much worse.

“The Birmingham Police Department is out here working for you,’’ the chief said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make this city safe. Our officers are dedicated, and you can see just in the sheer actions that we’re not taking this for granted. Birmingham is going to be a much better place in the future.”

He also had a message for criminals:

“Our officers our out here to do a job and we’re going to take care of the problems and circumstances we encounter.”

 

And in yet another incident on Wednesday night, a Birmingham police officer had to open fire after witnessing a gun battle while on patrol.

 

The officer was on patrol near the Southtown Court public housing community on the 2300 block of 9th Avenue South around 10 p.m.

That’s when he saw two groups shooting at each, according to Birmingham police spokesman Sgt. Johnny Williams.

“He did return fire into the gun battle, but it’s unclear whether he struck someone,” Williams said.

The spokesman added that the state Bureau of Investigation has been called to assist in the case. That happens whenever an officer fires their weapon.

Williams said one person was hit during the shooting.

“We’re not sure who struck that person or if they were already injured. We believe they were already injured when the officer arrived on the scene,” Williams said.

He added that the person was removed from the scene before the officer arrived and taken to a hospital in a private vehicle.