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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A police officer is lucky to be alive after a man with a rifle shot him in the head Wednesday night.

Investigators said a dispute among neighbors turned into a gunfight with police near East Ninth Street and South Carlisle Avenue.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Independence police responded to a 911 call about a man with a rifle shooting into the home of one of his neighbors. Witnesses report hearing shots at about 11 p.m.

The highway patrol said threats of violence were part of an ongoing dispute between neighbors on the block.

Police confronted the armed man in the backyard of one of the homes and investigators said there was an exchange of gunfire.

A shot hit one officer in the head.

The highway patrol said it may have been a small-caliber round.

“Whether it was a .22 or not, suffice it to say just being in that head region, there’s all kinds of vital places it could have went,” said Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “He’s just extremely lucky that he’s conscious and alert.”

Neighbor Veronika Licano thought she was hearing fireworks.

She was stunned to learn a police officer had been wounded in the gun battle.

“That is awful,” Licano said. “I myself am an EMT (emergency medical technician) and I have tried to do the police academy before. I have a lot of respect for law enforcement.”

Paramedics rushed the wounded police officer to the hospital.

Lowe said the officer was not seriously hurt and police say he has already been treated and released.

Independence police shot the suspect, the man with the rifle. He died at the hospital from his injuries.

The highway patrol has identified him as Aaron Pouche, 35.

Investigators said they have not yet been able to determine how many gunshots were fired in this incident.