WARNING: Violence and Strong Language
Two police officers were shot in front of the Ferguson, Missouri police station around midnight Thursday morning.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters that 60-70 protesters had gathered in front of the police station, which he said was not unusual. “To the immediate north-northwest of the Ferguson Police Department, several shots were fired — at least three — and two officers were struck.”
A 41-year-old St. Louis County officer, who is a 14-year veteran of law enforcement, was struck in the shoulder. A second officer from Webster Groves, age 32, was struck in the face. He has been a member of the department for approximately five years.
Belmar said the officers, who are being treated at the hospital, are conscious and their families are with them, “However, those are very serious gunshot injuries to be able to sustain in your upper torso and certainly in your face.”
“These police officers were standing there and they were shot, just because they were police officers,” Belmar said.
Several officers had been standing together in a group in front of the police station when shots were fired from across the street. “I would have to make an assumption right now, based on the fact that these officers were standing together and there were several officers standing right there together…that these shots were directed exactly at my police officers,” Belmar said.
He told reporters he thought Ferguson had been very fortunate not to have had “similar instances” since Michael Brown was killed. “But I have said all along that we cannot sustain this forever without problems,” he said. “That’s not an indictment on everybody that’s out there expressing their First Amendment rights, but we have seen in law enforcement that this is a very, very, very dangerous environment for the officers to work in regarding the amount of gunfire that we’ve experienced up there.”
A reporter from St. Louis Public Radio asked (or rather, stated): “To be clear, this was not the people who were exercising their First Amendment rights who did the shooting…”
“I don’t know who did the shooting to be honest with you right now,” Chief Belmar said. “But somehow they were embedded in that group of folks.”
He said he had no description of the suspect or suspects at this time and did not know what type of weapon had been used in the shooting.
Asked what kind of response Ferguson residents should expect from law enforcement in the wake of the shooting, Belmar answered, “I would argue that at times it’s been very volatile in the past and that’s what I talked about with sustainment. It’s very difficult to sustain this without injury to the public, our community, and without injuries to our police officers.” He added that the situation is being reevaluated. “My first priority is to the community. That’s followed very, very closely to my police officers and making sure they’re able to do what they’re supposed to do out there in a safe manner.”
The shooting of the two police officers follows the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Wednesday. Jackson was the sixth Ferguson employee to resign or be fired after the Department of Justice cleared Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.