An unidentified gunman fired into an unmarked Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office vehicle with a laser-sighted handgun Tuesday night in Marrero, piercing the windshield and striking the driver’s seat a moment after one of the officers moved to get out of the vehicle, a spokesman said.

A second shot struck the driver’s-side door as the three officers got out of the vehicle and returned fire, JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato said Wednesday.

The gunman escaped on foot down Charleston Street.

The incident began about 9:30 p.m. as members of the JPSO’s Street Crimes Section were patrolling a section of James and Jordan drives known for drug activity, Fortunato said.

The officers, who were wearing vests identifying them as law enforcement, said they saw three men standing in an overgrown vacant lot between Charleston and James and thought they were behaving suspiciously. The officers drove around the block to approach the men through the open lot and then began following two of the men who had begun walking down James Drive.

After losing sight of the two men when they turned into an alley, the officers drove back to enter the vacant lot from James Drive. That’s when they noticed a red laser beam fixed on their windshield and saw a person pointing a gun at them, Fortunato said.

The officers opened the doors and got out of the vehicle as the first bullet pierced the windshield and the second hit the door. “Luckily he had moved, or that round would have hit him right in the chest,” Fortunato said.

The man fled after the ensuing exchange of gunfire.

Fortunato said the officers hadn’t verbally identified themselves — there hadn’t been time before the shooting began — but he said the Sheriff’s Office believes the officers were visually identifiable as law enforcement because of their marked vests.

Crime scene technicians conducted a search of the area and recovered a number of spent 9mm shell casings.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.