Attorney General Eric Holder said the arrest of a suspect in last week’s shooting of two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department “sends a clear message that acts of violence against our law enforcement personnel will never be tolerated.”
“The swiftness of this action is a credit to the significant cooperation between federal authorities and the St. Louis County Police Department,” Holder said in a statement. “The ATF’s ballistic imaging technology has played a critical role in the ongoing investigation. I commend both the ATF and St. Louis police for their tremendous work in identifying this suspect.”
“In the days ahead, we will continue to partner with the authorities in St. Louis County to secure justice for all those affected by this heinous and cowardly crime. And we will continue to stand vigilant in support of public safety officers and the communities they serve.”
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced at a press conference today that 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams is facing two counts of first-degree assault in the shootings of the two cops.
But Williams reportedly told investigators he didn’t mean to target the line of police standing on the sidewalk Wednesday night, facing down protesters on the opposing sidewalk. Williams is claiming that he intended to shoot his .40-caliber handgun at someone with whom he had a disagreement, but hit the police instead.
“He may have had a dispute with some other individuals… I’m not sure we completely buy that part of it,” the prosecutor said, noting that Williams was believed to have been in a car for at least some of the five shots. “We’re not sure there was a dispute.”
McCulloch said Williams, who had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to meet with his probation officer after a conviction on receiving stolen property, was “out there earlier that evening as part of the demonstration.”
Protest leaders who spoke with the Washington Post and Associated Press denied that Williams was a protester. His Facebook page includes a post on the Mike Brown case but no photos from any protests; on Jan. 2 he wrote a post that included, “It’s so easy to take somebody [sic] life…” Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown when the 18-year-old was shot by Officer Darren Wilson last August, is one of Williams’ 5,000 Facebook friends.
McCulloch said community tips helped lead them to the suspect, who was arrested last night, but the investigation is continuing.
A 41-year-old St. Louis County officer was shot in the right shoulder and a 32-year-old officer from Webster Groves, standing next to him, was shot in the face. Both have been released from the hospital, but the latter officer now has a bullet lodged behind his ear.
Holder said Thursday that the attack on the officers “was a pure ambush.”
“What happened last night was a pure ambush,” he stressed. “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.”