A search is under way for a team of car thieves who shot at two police officers during a tense pursuit in the NSW Hunter.
Detectives are treating the shooting as attempted murder after the front seat passenger in a stolen car leant out of his window and fired a small-calibre rifle into the windscreen of the pursuing unmarked police car late on Wednesday night.
The bullet struck the windscreen at chest height, ricocheting instead of penetrating the glass.
It is unclear how many bullets may have been fired from the long-barrelled rifle towards the police car, which had its lights and sirens engaged when the windscreen was cracked.
However, a Sydney-based police dog named Apple, who specialises in ballistics work, discovered one spent cartridge about one metre from Freemans Drive at Cooranbong on Thursday afternoon near where the shot is believed to have been fired.
It will be sent away for analysis.
Lake Macquarie duty officer Inspector Murray Lundberg said detectives from the command’s special operations group were patrolling the area ‘‘as a result of a number of break and enters in the area’’.
At about 10.30pm, they saw a vehicle driving ‘‘very slowly’’.
They conducted a check of its registration, confirmed it was stolen and attempted to pull it over.
‘‘They have activated lights and sirens, the vehicle didn’t stop and commenced a pursuit,’’ Inspector Lundberg said.
‘‘Now at a location ... a passenger leans out with a long-armed rifle and fires a shot, at least one shot, and hits the windscreen of the police vehicle [which] has ricocheted off the windscreen.’’
Police ended the pursuit soon after because of the manner in which the stolen car was being driven.
Officers returned to the scene on Thursday, partially closing Freemans Drive for several hours as the ballistics dog and operational support unit officers scoured a 500-metre stretch looking for any spent cartridges.
Apple the dog that discovered the cartridge, is a veteran ballistics dog only months from retirement.
Anyone with information should contact Lake Macquarie detectives on 49429999 or Crime Stoppers on 1800333000.