ATF agent shot in the face was part of special force combating illegal guns

CHICAGO -- Just after 3 a.m., a federal agent was working undercover with Chicago police when he was shot in the face. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

The unidentified Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent was conducting a surveillance operation on the city's South Side when he was ambushed.

"We've ordered specialized units in the area to ensure the safety of our community residents and conduct a manhunt," said Eddie Johnson, police superintendent.

Hundreds of officers have fanned out to search for suspects. The wounded agent is part of Chicago's Gun Strike Force formed last year to cut the number of illegal guns in the city. It's a problem CBS News saw firsthand last summer.

President Trump has repeatedly said violent crime in Chicago is out of control, and last year 20 ATF agents were sent to be part of the Strike Force along with city and state police officers.

"When you can match shell casings, you can match crime scenes, now you have a possible suspect, eventually will lead us to the gun." said Celinez Nunez, ATF special agent in charge.

So far this year, shootings are down 26 percent compared to the same period last year, but there have still been nearly 600 shootings since January. For now, the manhunt continues.

You think we're going to take this lying down," said Johnson. "I've got a message for them, we're coming for you, just give us some time, we're coming."