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Police in St. Louis County say a man from Ferguson, Missouri, shot himself in the nearby town of Normandy on Wednesday, but many people who claim to have witnessed the incident have taken to social media to challenge the official version of events.
According to local authorities, the man — who has not yet been identified — shot himself in the face after a foot chase with police.
In a statement to VICE News, St. Louis County Police Sergeant Brian Schellman said the incident occurred at approximately 2pm local time when Normandy police officers responded to "a report of a suicidal subject."
"The individual was being followed by members of his family, who were seeking police and medical intervention," Schellman said. "Normandy officers made contact with this individual, an 18 year old male, in that area, and attempted to open a dialogue with him."
Schellman said the man was "uncooperative with the officers and members of his family" and continued walking.
"Normandy officers exited their patrol vehicles and again attempted to speak with the individual at which time the male retrieved a handgun from his waistband and began firing shots at the officers," Schellman said.
According to the police statement, a Normandy officer used a Taser on the man, "which was ineffective," before other officers on the scene "returned fire."
"It appears at this time the male was not struck by law enforcement gunfire," Schellman said. "The individual fled... Officers in pursuit of the male momentarily lost sight of him, however, heard one additional gunshot. As officers turned the corner, they observed the male lying on the ground unresponsive and immediately began rendering first aid."
Police said the wounded man was transported to an area hospital, where he is in critical condition. "Normandy police recovered a handgun lying next to the subject at the scene," Schellman said.
Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb northwest of St. Louis, became the focal point of a national push for police reform after the officer-involved shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last August. The incident led to months of protests that occasionally turned violent.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Normandy police spokeswoman Corporal Tameika Sanders said Ferguson police officers were on the scene on Wednesday but not involved in the exchange of fire. Sanders said only one officer discharged his weapon, and that none of the department's officers are equipped with body cameras.
Many people were quick to dispute the official police narrative on Twitter and Facebook.
HE DID NOT SHOOT HIMSELF....How the hell can somebody shoot themselves in the face more then once? Don't be stupid
— King D Seals (@KingDSeals)October 28, 2015
In a video shot by someone claiming to be a witness, voices can be heard saying "Stop: don't shoot my baby."
A video of a tense encounter between the man's mother and police also surfaced on Facebook hours after the incident.
This is a breaking news story, please check back for updates.
Follow Avi Asher-Schapiro: @AASchapiro