Attorney General Eric Holder offered whatever federal help local authorities might need in finding the “damn punk” who shot two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department last night.
A 41-year-old St. Louis County officer was shot in the right shoulder and a 32-year-old officer from Webster Groves was shot in the face. Both have been released from the hospital, but the latter officer now has a bullet lodged behind his ear.
Police have not yet identified the suspect or suspects.
The officers were standing next to each other in a line of police when they were shot, and officials said the bullets, which came from a handgun, could have been fired up to 120 yards away.
In his remarks at the beginning of a scheduled event today to launch a new Justice Department initiative, Holder stressed, “I unequivocally condemn these repugnant attacks.”
“I know all of us in the law enforcement family and all American really across the country are praying for the safe recovery of their – those two officers. And I stand ready to offer the full investigative resources of the United States Department of Justice, the FBI, to solve this crime and to hold these perpetrators fully, fully accountable,” he said.
Holder mentioned his brother, a retired law enforcement officer, who “always tells me that cops have the right, you know, to come home at night, you know?”
“And that’s exactly right. These are people who protect us, who keep us safe and they have the right, they have the right to come home at night,” he said. “You know, seeing this attack last night really kind of turned my stomach because in the last week since the Justice Department released its pattern and practice report on Ferguson, I thought we’d begun to see really important signs of progress. There were good faith steps being taken within the city’s leadership to move in a new, more cooperative direction that I think is beneficial to law enforcement and to community residents. But make no mistake, we still have, you know, we still have a long way to go to bringing about the systemic change that is needed and that is long overdue in that area. But I think the early indications have really truly been positive.”
The shootings came a week after the “searing” report mentioned by Holder found systematic racism in arrests and prosecutions as well as racist emails exchanged between city officials.
“But what happened last night was a – was a pure ambush. What happened last night was a pure ambush,” he continued. “This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was – this was a damn punk, a punk, who was trying to sow discord in an area that is trying to get its act together and trying to bring together a community that has been fractured for too long.”
“This really disgusting and cowardly attack might have been intended to unravel any sense of progress that exists, but I hope that that does not, in fact, happen. Incidents like the one we have witnessed throw into sharp belief why, you know, conversations like the one that we’ve convened today and that we’re going to be having to build trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve are really so important.”