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By Patrick M. O'Connell, Kim Bell and Carolyn Tuft
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

MAPLEWOOD, Mo. - A firefighter was killed and two police officers were wounded when a gunman opened fire in Maplewood early today.
The gunman might still be holed up in a burning home, and police sharpshooters have swarmed the neighborhood near South Big Bend Boulevard and Zephyr Place.
The identity of the dead firefighter has not been released. But Eric L. Clark, a spokesman for St. Mary's Hospital, confirmed that the firefighter-paramedic from Maplewood died at the hospital. At 10:10 a.m. today, the American flag and a Maplewood city flag were both lowered to half staff outside Maplewood City Hall.
Meanwhile, a Maplewood police officer is in critical condition at another area hospital. The bullet struck the officer's badge, which may have saved his life, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A second Maplewood police officer was shot in the right shoulder. He is being treated at St. Mary's, but his injuries are not considered life-threatening.
It all started unfolding before 6 a.m. today, when firefighters were responding to a vehicle fire on Zephyr Place.
"They were about to put out the fire, then I heard a couple of shots," said one witness, Sanyog Rai, working at a 7-11 store on Big Bend. "I saw a cop holding his shoulder, and he fell down to the ground."
The house fire started shortly after that. Officers surrounded the home, believing the gunman was inside.
Three hours later, dozens of police cars from a mix of area departments were still there. Many of the officers are crouching behind police cars with their weapons drawn. The St. Louis County police explosives unit rolled up after 9 a.m., as did an armored vehicle from the U.S. Marine Corps. FBI agents were suiting up in tactical gear.
Paul Kieselhorst, who lives about three blocks from the incident, said he heard four shots as his wife was leaving for work. Then, he heard a fifth shot. Kieselhorst saw an ambulance racing from the scene with lights and sirens blaring. He said police tactical units have evacuated a few people from adjacent homes.
"They still have the shooter holed up and people are at risk," Kieselhorst said.
The manager of the 7-11, Anuj Srivastava, was at home asleep when the shooting happened. His second-floor apartment is across the street from the convenience store. He watched the explosion from the truck fire.
"When the truck exploded, I saw the fireball coming up over the house 150 feet up," he said.
Casey Smith, who lives in the 7300 block of Zephyr Place, could hear helicopters hovering overhead about 8:45 a.m. today. She said she was virtually trapped in her home.
"A friend called to make sure I'm OK," Smith said. "I'm not going outside. Usually, this is a quiet place. I've never felt threatened."

Wire Service
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