Two police officers were shot in Ferguson, MO, following what had been a largely peaceful protest outside the city’s police headquarters Wednesday night.
One of the police officers, from the Webster Groves department, was shot in the face, while the other, from the St. Louis County force, was shot in the shoulder. Sgt. Brian Schellman, a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department, said that the injuries were not life threatening, but that both men were in serious condition at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
The Webster Groves officer is 32 years old and the St. Louis officer is 41, but their names had not been released at the time of this report’s writing.
The shooting, which occurred just after midnight, closely followed the resignation of Thomas Jackson as Ferguson police chief after the release of a U.S. Justice Department report concluding that his force showed sustained racial bias in their policies and practices. That investigation had taken place in the wake of the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, approximately seven months ago.
Prior to the shooting, demonstrators were chanting about their dissatisfaction with Jackson’s resignation, calling for further change.
Such protests have become a familiar sight in Ferguson, and a November grand jury decision not to charge Wilson for Brown’s death set off looting and fires. But this marked the first time an officer was shot at a demonstration.
Although shootings of law enforcement officers often carry additional weight, on-the-job shootings are an acknowledged problem in the U.S.; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 375 U.S. employees were killed in on-the-job shootings in 2012.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that it appeared that the police officers had been directly targeted. Witnesses to the shooting said the shots appeared to come from well behind the protesters, originating from the top of a hill across the street and about 220 yards from the police station. At least three shots were fired.
The police say they do not yet have any suspects.