TWO officers were shot in Ferguson, Missouri, yesterday as demonstrators gathered following the resignation of the police chief in the city that became a symbol of racial tensions after a white officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old.
The shots were fired in front of the police department hours after Ferguson’s mayor announced the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson, the latest city official to quit in the wake of a scathing federal government report alleging bias within the police department and court system.
Before the shooting, some at the protest were chanting to show they were not satisfied with the resignations of Jackson and City Manager John Shaw earlier in the week.
A 32-year-old officer was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer blasted in the shoulder, St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference. Both were taken to a hospital, where Mr Belmar said they were conscious, but he described their injuries as “serious.”
“I don’t know who did the shooting, to be honest with you,” Mr Belmar said, adding that he could not provide a description of the suspect or gun.
He said his “assumption” was that, based on where the officers were standing and the trajectory of the bullets, “these shots were directed exactly at my officers”.
The protest was a familiar scene in Ferguson, which saw similar but much larger demonstrations after the shooting death of Michael Brown last summer by city police officer Darren Wilson. When Mr Wilson, who is white, was cleared in November by a state grand jury, the decision set off further protests, looting and fires. Yesterday was the first time an officer at a protest had been shot.
Several high-profile deaths of unarmed men and teens by police officers have stirred nationwide calls for greater police accountability.
Protesters in the Atlanta area added their voices to the chorus on Wednesday after an unarmed, naked black man was fatally shot by an officer responding to a complaint of a suspicious person at an apartment complex.
After the Ferguson shooting, officers with guns and in riot gear circled the police station, and more than a dozen squad cars blocked the street. In an amateur video, two shots can be heard ringing out and a man is heard screaming out in pain.
Someone at the scene, unseen and unidentified in the video, says: “Acknowledgement nine months ago would have kept that from happening.”
Marciay Pitchford, 20, was among the protesters. She said the demonstration had been peaceful until she heard the shots. “I saw the officer go down and the other police officers drew their guns while other officers dragged the injured officer away,” Ms Pitchford said.
“All of a sudden everybody started running or dropping to the ground.”
Mr Belmar said the shots were fired from across the street from the police department.
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