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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Two Police Officers Shot|During Protest in Ferguson

FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) - Two police officers were shot just after midnight Thursday morning during a protest outside of the Ferguson Police Department. One officer was shot in the face. Both are expected to survive.

The shootings came hours after embattled Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson announced his resignation, effective March 19. After the announcement, protesters gathered in front of the police department, calling for more resignations.

One victim worked for St. Louis County Police and one for the Webster Grove police. Neither worked for the Ferguson police.

"This is really an ambush is what it is," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.

"You can't see it coming. You don't understand what's happening. You're basically defenseless at the time."

Belmar said that finding the shooter or shooters is his department's top priority.

The 32-year-old Webster Groves officer was shot in the upper cheek and the bullet is lodged behind his ear, Belmar said. The St. Louis County officer, 41, was shot in the shoulder and "is in a tremendous amount of pain."

Both are in serious condition, but are expected to survive.

The Post-Dispatch posted a blurry video in which the gunshots are heard, and the crowd reacts. The crowd of about 60 to 70 people scatted after the gunfire.

Belmar said the officers were standing next to each other in a line with about 25 other officers when they were shot.

A Post-Dispatch reporter on the scene tweeted that the shots came from a house on a hill across from the police department and that witnesses say two to four shots were fired.

Ferguson Police Chief Jackson resigned Wednesday, a week after the U.S. Department of Justice blasted the department in a report that outlined years of racial discrimination by Ferguson police. Jackson was the third Ferguson official to resign this week.

During a Thursday morning news conference, Belmar laid out the timeline of events:

- At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jackson announced his resignation, prompting the protesters to gather.

- At 8:01 p.m., Belmar began to monitor the situation.

- At 8:27 p.m., protesters began blocking the road in front of the police station, prompting Ferguson to issue a "Code 1000," which summons the nearest 25 cars, no matter the jurisdiction, to the scene.

- 9:00 p.m. one arrest was made.

- 10:00 p.m. another "Code 1000" was issued and about 69 police officers respond.

- 10:30-11:15 two more arrests were made.

- 11:15-11:45 crowd and police presence begin to thin.

- 12:00 a.m. three to four shots fired at police.

"We're lucky, through God's grace, that we didn't lose two officers last night," Belmar said.

Belmar said the St. Louis County officer, 41, is a 14-year law enforcement veteran. The Webster Groves officer, 32, is a 5-year veteran.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Thursday morning condemning the shootings.

"This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant," Holder said in the statement. "I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms ... Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months."

Holder wished the officers a full and speedy recovery and said the DOJ stands "ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department's full range of investigative resources."

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