FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Two officers were shot in front of the Ferguson Police Department early Thursday, authorities said, as demonstrators gathered after the resignation of the city’s police chief in the wake of a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police department and court.
A 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference. Both were taken to a hospital, where Belmar said they were conscious. He said he did not have further details about their conditions but described their injuries as “serious.”
“I don’t know who did the shooting, to be honest with you,” Belmar said, adding that he could not provide a description of the suspect or gun.
He said his “assumption” was that, based on where the officers were standing and the trajectory of the bullets, “these shots were directed exactly at my officers.”
The shots were fired shortly after midnight as protesters were gathered following the resignation of embattled Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Wednesday. Before the shooting, some at the protest were chanting to show they weren’t satisfied with the resignations of Jackson and City Manager John Shaw earlier in the week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Authorities from multiple agencies had gathered outside of the department.
The protest was a familiar scene in Ferguson, which saw similar and much larger demonstrations after the shooting death of black 18-year-old Michael Brown last summer by city police officer Darren Wilson. When Wilson, who is white, was cleared in November by a state grand jury, the decision set off further protests, looting and fires. But Wednesday was the first time an officer at a protest had been shot.
Marciay Pitchford, 20, was among the protesters outside the police department. She told The Associated Press the protest had been mostly peaceful until she heard the shots ring out.
“I saw the officer go down and the other police officers drew their guns while other officers dragged the injured officer away,” Pitchford said. “All of a sudden everybody started running or dropping to the ground.”
Belmar said the shots were fired from across the street from the police department.
After the shooting, officers with guns and in riot gear circled the station, and more than a dozen squad cars blocked the street.
By Jim Salter – Associated Press – Washington Times –