via Huffington Post:
Two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson Police Department just after midnight Thursday, police and eyewitnesses said. The shootings came during protests following the Ferguson police chief’s resignation on Wednesday afternoon.
In a press conference outside the hospital where the officers were being treated on Thursday morning, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that a 32-year-old officer from suburban Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder, according to the Associated Press. Belmar said the injuries were “very serious” but that both officers were conscious, and that he assumed they were targeted because they were police officers. Police had no one in custody in connection with the shooting.
Witness Tony Rice told The Huffington Post he heard several shots and saw one officer on the ground hollering. Photographer Bradley Rayford said in an interview that he was standing near the line of officers outside the Ferguson Police Department when he heard gunshots and saw a muzzle flash. He said heard the bullets whiz through the air and saw one fallen officer being dragged to safety.
Officers drew their weapons and took protective positions after the shots were fired, and some protesters cleared the area. Officers advanced up a street across from the police department where the shots seem to have originated, one live stream showed.
More from the AP:
The shots were fired as protesters had gathered following the resignation of Ferguson’s embattled Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Wednesday.
Jackson was the sixth employee to resign or be fired after a Justice Department report cleared a white former Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, of civil rights charges in the shooting of black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer. Wilson has since resigned. A separate Justice Department report found a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias in the city police department.
A protester yells at police outside the Ferguson Police Department Wednesday.
Mayor James Knowles III announced Wednesday that the city had reached a mutual separation agreement with Jackson that will pay Jackson one year of his nearly $96,000 annual salary and health coverage. Jackson’s resignation becomes effective March 19, at which point Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff will become acting chief while the city searches for a replacement.
Jackson had previously resisted calls by protesters and some of Missouri’s top elected leaders to step down over his handling of Brown’s shooting and the weeks of sometimes-violent protests that followed. He was widely criticized from the outset, both for an aggressive police response to protesters and for his agency’s erratic and infrequent releases of key information.
He took nearly a week to publicly identify Wilson as the shooter and then further heightened tension in the community by releasing Wilson’s name at the same time as store security video that police said showed Brown stealing a box of cigars and shoving a clerk only a short time before his death.
Police shine a light on a helmet as they investigate the shooting scene.
During a 12-minute news conference, Knowles said Jackson resigned after “a lot of soul-searching” about how the community could heal from the racial unrest stemming from the fatal shooting last summer.
“The chief is the kind of honorable man you don’t have to go to,” Knowles said. “He comes to you when he knows that this is something we have to seriously discuss.”
The acting head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division released a statement saying the U.S. government remains committed to reaching a “court-enforceable agreement” to address Ferguson’s “unconstitutional practices,” regardless of who’s in charge of the city.
Jackson oversaw the Ferguson force for nearly five years before the shooting that stirred months of unrest across the St. Louis region and drew global attention to the predominantly black city of 21,000.
In addition to Jackson, Ferguson’s court clerk was fired last week and two police officers resigned. The judge who oversaw the court system also resigned, and the City Council on Tuesday agreed to a separation agreement with the city manager.