Protest groups criticised the police response to demonstrators who gathered in Ferguson, Missouri, on Sunday night, the site of many protests in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death on 9 August last year.
St Louis County chief Jon Belmar said officers had been tracking the suspect, who they believed was armed, during a protest marking the death of the 18-year-old whose killing by a white Ferguson police officer.
The anniversary of Mr Brown’s killing has sparked days of renewed protests, though until Sunday they had been peaceful and without any arrests. For the first time in three consecutive nights of demonstrations, some officers were dressed in riot gear, including bullet-proof vests and helmets with shields. Police at one point yesterday shot smoke to disperse a lingering crowd, Mr Belmar said. At the height of what was already a rowdy protest in which rocks and bottles were thrown at officers, gunshots rang out from the area near a strip of stores, including some that had been looted. Mr Belmar believes the shots came from about six people. What prompted the shooting was unclear but Mr Belmar said the groups had been feuding.
At one point, the suspect crossed the street and apparently spotted the plainclothes officers arriving in an unmarked van with distinctive red and blue police lights, Mr Belmar said. He said the suspect shot into the bonnet and windscreen.
The officers fired back at him from inside the vehicle then pursued him on foot when he ran.
The suspect again fired on the officers when he became trapped in a fenced-in area and all four officers fired back. He was hit and fell.
The suspect was taken to a hospital, where Mr Belmar said he was in “critical, unstable” condition. Authorities did not immediately release the identities of anyone involved, but Tyrone Harris told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that the injured suspect was his son, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr.
Mr Harris told the newspaper shortly after 3am local time that his son had just undergone surgery.
None of the officers was seriously injured. All four have been put on standard administrative leave. They were not wearing body cameras, Mr Belmar said.
Early yesterday, another reported shooting drew officers to an apartment building in the area.
Two males told police they were targeted in a drive-by shooting near the memorial to Mr Brown outside Canfield Apartments. A 17-year-old was shot in the chest and shoulder while a 19-year-old was shot in the chest, but their injuries were not life-threatening, police said.
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old suspect has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and one count of resisting arrest after he fired shots near the protesters late on Sunday.
Before the gunfire, protesters were blocking traffic and confronting police. One person threw a glass bottle at officers but missed. One officer was treated for cuts after a rock was thrown at his face, and two officers were pepper-sprayed.