Two police officers were shot during a protest outside the Ferguson, Missouri police headquarters early on Thursday, police said, just hours after the city’s police chief quit following a damning justice report into his department.
“Two @SaintLouCo police officers were shot outside the #Ferguson PD shortly after midnight. Gathering more info. Conditions not known,” the St. Louis County Police Department said in a tweet.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper earlier reported early on Thursday that Ferguson Lieutenant-Colonel Al Eickhoff said he did not believe either of the officers were part of his department. He could not provide details on their injuries to the Post-Dispatch.
A few dozen demonstrators fled following the sound of gunfire around midnight with some screaming, “They hit a cop,” according to a Reuters photographer at the scene.
Several dozen protesters had gathered in front of the Ferguson police department earlier on Wednesday night, just hours after the city’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, announced his resignation.
Prominent activist Deray McKesson said on Twitter that he was at the scene, adding that the gunfire did not appear to come from the group of demonstrators.
“The shooter was not with the protesters. The shooter was atop the hill. We can live in a world without guns,” McKesson said.
Protesters had called for Jackson’s removal since the fatal shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9 2014. The killing triggered nationwide protests and drew scrutiny to police use of deadly force, especially against black men.
Neither a grand jury nor the federal probe led to charges against Wilson.
Jackson’s departure was the latest in a string of officials who stepped down following a scathing report from the US Justice Department that found widespread racially biased abuses in the city’s police department and municipal court.
Wednesday’s demonstration had been tense but peaceful throughout the night. Several dozen people attended, and at one point demonstrators hung a flag with the words “Racism Lives Here” over a silhouette of the St. Louis skyline and drew chalk outlines in the parking lot of the department.
Later, some two dozen officers clad in riot gear faced off against the demonstrators, who had relocated to the street. At least two people were taken into custody.
The two police officers who were shot are conscious and being treated at a local hospital, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters.
An officer from the St. Louis County Police was shot in the shoulder and an officer from the Webster Groves Police Department was struck in the face when at least three shots rang out as the crowd protesting at the station was breaking up, Belmar said. – Reuters