Two Officers Shot in Ferguson Unrest

Two police officers have been shot in the early hours of Thursday morning as a demonstration to celebrate the resignation of Ferguson’s police chief turned to violence and gunfire.  One officer was a St Louis police offer who was struck in the shoulder while the other, a Webster Groves officer, was struck in the face, according to St Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar.

Both officers have been hospitalised but are said to be conscious.

The officers were part of a group from various jurisdictions who were monitoring the protestors at the time of the incident.  Belmar added that police officers were standing and watching the protestors when they were shot ‘just because they were police officers’.

Gathering

Protestors had gathered at the Ferguson Police Department on Wednesday night to cheer the resignation of Thomas Jackson, the embattled city Chief of Police, who had announced his resignation.  The crowd had begun to thin, ready to go home for the night, when the shots rang out.

One witness said that abruptly he heard four or five shots ring out and it took him half a minute or so realised that a police officer was on the ground.  He left the scene when this happened, saying he was there to protest, not to be part of violence or the shooting of officers.

Another witness who was just a few feet from the shooting said he saw a muzzle flash and realised someone was shooting at the police department.

Arrests

The demonstrations had begun peacefully but had devolved during the night.  Some protestors even closed the road that runs in front of the police station for a short time when facing a line of officers and at this point at least two people were arrested, a local station said.

There were chants and at least one scuffle broke out between some of the demonstrators while the police officers stood behind cars with their guns readied.

The new protests followed a period of relative quiet in the last few weeks that has seen a string of resignations following the damming report by the Justice Department into the city’s police tactics.  It found they were disproportionately targeting Africa-Americans in the city and led to the latest resignation, that of the Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

One protestor said that the demonstrators wanted more – they were seeking the disbandment of the police department as well as the resignation of Mayor James Knowles.

Anger has remained high after the grand jury’s decision to exonerate the police officer who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown, with the decision leading to a period of riots.  Chief Jackson had come under intense pressure immediately after events but had finally given his resignation, taking effect on March 19th.

Report

The Justice Department report faulted the officers in the police department for seeing African-American as a ‘source of revenue’ and that racist jokes were being sent around both the police department and court officials.  Both the police chief and the Ferguson City Manager John Shaw were named in the report and both have now resigned, along with two top police officers and the city’s top court clerk.


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