The officer was uninjured. Investigators don’t know if the suspect was shot, but local hospitals had no reports Saturday morning of a person matching the description of the suspect, said Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson.
The officer was patrolling Henry Farm Park on Henry Road between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. when he spotted a man hunched down in the playground reaching into a backpack, Thompson said. The officer approached the man on foot, and the man ran onto an unlit walking trail on a hill above the playground.
Near a bridge on the trail, the suspect turned and fired two shots at the officer chasing him, Thompson said. The officer returned fire three times, but the man disappeared into the woods.
Police were unable to find shell casings from the suspect’s gun at the scene, Thompson said, but attendees and police officers at the Jacksonville High School football game north of the park reported hearing what sounded like two gunshots followed quickly by three more.
The suspect may have been at the Jacksonville High football game prior to the shooting, Thompson said, because of the close proximity to the park.
Thompson declined to give the name of the officer, but said he had already returned to work Saturday morning helping fellow officers with the Jacksonville State University homecoming parade.
Authorities searched the area using police dogs and an Alabama State Trooper helicopter with infrared cameras, but the man was not found. Police dogs tracked the suspect south of the park to a small lake on Aderholt Mill Road, but lost the scent at the water’s edge, Thompson said.
The search was called off just before 1 a.m. this morning.
The suspect is described as a white man standing between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing between 140 and 150 pounds. He was wearing a black shirt and carrying a black backpack, Thompson said.
Investigators ask anyone with information to call Jacksonville police at 256-435-6448, or send the department a private message through Facebook by visiting them at www.facebook.com/jacksonvillepolicedepartment.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.