COUNTRY CLUB HILLS, Ill. (STMW) – Two south suburban men have been charged with drug offenses stemming from a police chase and shootout with officers Thursday afternoon at a strip mall that left another suspect dead and four sheriff’s police officers injured.

An exchange of gunfire erupted between police and suspected drug dealers — one of whom later died from injuries suffered during the incident, police said. Vehicles raced through the parking lot, bumping each other, and a sport utility vehicle was rammed and spun upside down. Finally, police apparently shot the tires out of the suspects’ car to stop it, then swarmed it with guns drawn, witnesses said.

In addition to the suspect who died, identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office as Nyarko Johnson, 38, of Markham, four Cook County sheriff’s officers were injured in the mayhem at the Country Club Hills plaza near 167th Street and Pulaski Road, sheriff’s department spokeswoman Liane Jackson said. It was all the result of an undercover narcotics investigation that “got out of control” about 1:45 p.m., officials said.

The incident was touched off by an altercation involving the target of the narcotics investigation, sheriff’s office spokesman Steve Patterson said. The suspect fled the scene in his vehicle and attempted to strike one of the officers with the car, Patterson said. He continued driving through the parking lots of other businesses before striking a police vehicle in the Loews parking lot, causing it to flip over, Patterson said.

Johnson, who was armed, was shot as he “attempted to injure our officers,” Patterson said. He was pronounced dead at 9:33 p.m. at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Sheriff’s police said Saturday that Johnson, who had a long criminal history, recently pleaded guilty in federal court to narcotics conspiracy and was to surrender to federal authorities to serve a five year prison sentence at the time of his death.

Two other suspects have been charged in relation to the incident, according to sheriff’s police. Rafael Washington, 35, of the 16300 block of Plymouth Drive in Markham has been charged with one count of delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine) and one count of possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), a release from the sheriff’s office said.

Nathaniel Wallace, 38, of Harvey has also been charged with one count of delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine) and one count of possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), according to the release.

The case against the two men is currently under review and a presentation of additional evidence may be made to the state’s attorneys office, at which time additional charges are possible, the release said.

Both men appeared at a bond hearing in Markham Saturday afternoon. Wallace received a $200,000 bond, according to the sheriff’s office. Wallace also had an outstanding warrant out of Grundy County — bond for that offense was set at $3,000. Washington received a $500,000 bond.

Both men have a next court date of July 5 in Markham.

All four Cook County Sheriff’s Police officers involved in the incident have been treated and released from the hospital.

Merchants in the plaza, which is anchored by a Wal-Mart store and a Loews Theater, were shocked by the incident. “It’s hard to believe this is happening in front of me. This is a busy shopping district,” said Marsha Holmes, a part-time employee of Work Wear Uniforms. “This is generally a safe area.”

Takisha Bumpers, a manager at the Radio Shack in the plaza, said she locked her doors when she saw what was happening.

“I didn’t want to take any chances,” she said.

She said she saw the suspect’s silver Cadillac speed west past the front of her store and wondered why he was going so fast. Then she heard gunshots and realized police were pursuing that car.

Witnesses said they saw the Cadillac speed through the parking lot by the Wal-Mart and go behind an outlot building near the theater, and when it emerged, it was being followed by a sport utility vehicle as gunfire was exchanged.

One witness said the SUV was bumping the back of the Cadillac trying to get the driver to stop.

Once the Cadillac was stopped near Fifth Third Bank, police swarmed the vehicle with guns drawn, witnesses said.

Several businesses, including Panda Express, McDonalds, Subway, Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank, were closed for hours and cordoned off with yellow police tape as part of the crime scene, Jackson said.

The shooting will be investigated by the Illinois State Police, officials said.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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