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A Winston-Salem police officer who was shot in the face Friday morning while responding to a call at a local bar has died. Meanwhile, the search continues for a culprit.

Sgt. Howard J. Plouff, 41, a 17-year veteran of the Winston-Salem Police Department, died Friday night at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

"This is a tragic loss for the family of Sergeant Plouff and our police family. We ask that you keep Sergeant Plouff's family in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time," the police department said.

Authorities said the shooting occurred at about 2 a.m. as Winston-Salem police officers arrived at the Red Rooster Club in response to a call for help from Forsyth County sheriff's deputies.

Deputies were working off-duty security there when several fights started within the club and spilled outside.

Amid crowds of people outside, shots were fired and one struck the officer.

"As soon as the fight broke out, they turned off the music and turned on the lights," witness Miguel Cuadra told WXII 12's Angela Pellerano.

William Bruce and his friends said they were stuck inside during the melee and were doused with mace.

"The most scary thing was when they were spraying pepper in the club. I thought I was going to die. The whole thing was scary," one witness said.

Bruce and his friends were forced to stay inside the club for 12 hours. Cuardra and Fortez slept in their cars. They said people weren't allowed to leave the scene.

No arrests have been made.

Plouff leaves behind his wife, Joyce, and two children -- ages 9 and 11. His wife is a teacher at Southwest Elementary School.

Plouff received a medal of honor in 2003 for saving a woman's life. It happened after a woman called criminal records and threatened to kill herself. Several officers, including Plouff, were dispatched to the scene just in time. Four other officers received similar medals of honor.

Plouff is the first Winston-Salem officer to die in the line of duty since February 1995. Officer Stephen Amos II was shot while on a call at the Hill Top Ridge Apartments on Brownsboro Road.

Friday's incident forced road closures in the area and affected school bus routes. Buses from schools such as Jefferson Middle and Meadowlark Elementary had trouble making their routes, officials said. There were no official school delays issued by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Winston-Salem Police Department at 773-7700 or Crimestoppers at 727-2800.

Funeral Information

Visitation for Sgt. Plouff will be held Monday, Feb. 26 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, 4820 Kinnamon Road in Clemmons, N.C.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 11 a.m. at the church.