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3 law officers serving warrant are killed, 5 wounded in shootout at North Carolina home, police say

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

Three officers on a U.S. Marshals Task Force serving a warrant for a felon wanted for possessing a firearm were killed and five other officers were wounded in a shootout Monday at a North Carolina home, police said.

Some of the officers who rushed to the Charlotte neighbourhood to rescue the first wave of downed officers were wounded as a second shooter began firing on them after they killed the wanted man, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said.

"Today we lost some heroes who were out simply trying to keep our community safe," Jennings said at a news conference.

After a three-hour standoff, the suburban Charlotte home was torn open. Armoured vehicles smashed into it, ripping off windows and entire doorways that were left broken. Several armoured vehicles were parked across yards, some with tree branches dangling off them.

The task force was fired on by the wanted suspect as they approached the house and the man was killed in the front yard, Jennings said. His name was not released, but the chief said he was wanted as a felon illegally possessing a weapon.

A second person then fired on officers from inside the home where a high-powered rifle was found, Jennings added.

A woman and a 17-year-old male were found in the home after the standoff. The two are being questioned, Jennings said.

The Marshal's Service confirmed one of its agents was killed and did not release a name. Two officers from the state Department of Adult Correction also were killed, said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor was in Charlotte and was speaking to the families of the officers killed and hurt.

One other member of the task force, which is made up of federal agents and other officers from across the region was injured.

Four Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers who responded to the scene were shot while trying to rescue the wounded officers. One of them remains in critical condition, Jennings said.

Neighbours said gunfire lasted for several minutes.

WSOC-TV said their helicopter captured an armoured vehicle driving through yards and knocking over recycling bins before officers removed a person with blood on their shirt who was then loaded into an ambulance.

After the home was cleared, the helicopter pilot said he couldn't show the front lawn of the home because the scene was too graphic and disturbing.

"A lot of the questions that need to be answered, we don't even know what those questions are now," Jennings said, somberly briefing reporters less than four hours after the shooting. "We have to get a full understanding of why this occurred and also uphold the integrity of the investigation."

Many roads in the area including Interstate 77 were closed so ambulances could get to hospitals faster. TV footage showed ambulances speeding to hospitals escorted by vehicles both in front and behind with their sirens wailing.

Rissa Reign was cleaning her house when she heard the first shots ring out. There was a pause, then a second set of shots and then a third. She stepped outside.

"When we came outside, there were no cops at all, then cops started rushing, rushing, rushing, rushing in," she said, adding armoured SWAT trucks quickly followed and they "were going over the grass, everything, and they started shooting again."

The neighbourhood, of one-- and two-story, brick homes and small trimmed lawns, is very safe, said Alex Rivera, who lives on a street nearby.

"I see, like, 50 police cars zooming in, and then I hear gunshots," he said on the front porch of the house he shares with his cousin. "I was scared, because there was so much going on."

Another neighbor, William Cunningham, was moved to tears as he sat on his porch. He said he is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm but never expected such violence in his own neighbourhood.

"Bless those officers and bless their families," he said. "Nobody should get killed over a warrant."

Four Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were placed on lockdown around afternoon dismissal, but that was lifted in the late afternoon, the district said.

Police urged people to stay away from the neighbourhood and asked residents to remain inside their homes until the all clear was given.

President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and spoke with Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles to express his condolences and support for the community.

The last marshal shot and killed in the line of duty was in November 2018. Chase White was shot in Tucson, Arizona, by a man wanted for stalking local law enforcement officers, the agency said.

The Carolinas Regional Fugitive Task Force is headquartered in Charlotte and comprised of 70 federal, state and local agencies. Fugitive task forces are collaborations between agencies to find and arrest suspects in crimes.

In six years, the regional task force has apprehended more than 8,900 fugitives, the U.S. Marshals Service said on its website.

In March 2007, two Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers were killed while responding to a domestic dispute by someone not directly involved in the fight. Demeatrius Antonio Montgomery is serving a life sentence in the killings of officers Jeffrey Shelton and Sean Clark.

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Contributing to this report were Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Kentucky; and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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