Following a small demonstration outside police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri, unknown gunmen shot and wounded two officers on Wednesday, shortly after midnight. This latest incident comes only months after the police killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, which sparked protests in the small Missouri city, and throughout the country.
According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, the shooter or shooters wounded a 32-year-old Webster Groves officer in the face, seriously injuring him. Belmar also confirmed that a St. Louis County officer suffered a wound to the shoulder, and said both officers were standing in front of the Ferguson police department at the time of the shooting.
“These police officers were standing there and they were shot, just because they were police officers,” said Belmar.
“I don’t know who did the shooting, to be honest with you right now. But somehow they were embedded in that group of folks,” he added.
While demonstrations in Ferguson have become routine since the killing of Michael Brown, this is the first reported incident of an officer shot. “We’ve had occasion to be involved in many of the events in Ferguson since Michael Brown was killed, and we’ve been very fortunate as we’ve moved forward not to have similar instances like this happen to us,” said Belmar.
US Attorney General Eric Holder called Thursday’s events “inexcusable and repugnant.”
“Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards,” he said in a statement.
According to several demonstrators, the shots may have been fired from a hill behind the group of demonstrators who were celebrating the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Jackson is the sixth senior official to vacate his post following the release last week of a conclusive US Department of Justice report of the city’s criminal justice system.
Justice Department officials found that police and prosecutors frequently and disproportionately targeted black people in Ferguson, violating their constitutional rights.