Early Thursday, two police officers guarding the Ferguson Police Station were shot by protesters following the federal investigation of the city’s allegedly racially biased police force and the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
One witness said protests had started “to calm down for the evening” when several gunshots rang out just after midnight.
“It sounded like firecrackers, that’s what we thought at first, but when everybody hit the floor and the police said, ‘Get down, get down,’ and guns were drawn, we all hit the floor,” said witness Jennifer Roller. “It was a frightening moment.”
One officer was shot in the shoulder and one was shot in the face. Both were protected by their riot gear. The officers were taken immediately to a hospital, still conscious, where they were treated for serious injuries.
The identities of the officers have not been disclosed to the public.
Immediately after the shooting, police cleared everyone from the scene. No one else was harmed.
“Fortunately, with both officers, we don’t have any remarkable long-term injuries,” said Belmar. “We’re lucky.”
Protests in Ferguson have been ongoing for several months since the shooting of teenager Michael Brown. Although this event has sparked many violent demonstrations including looting and fires across the country, this is the first direct assault on police officers.
“These police officers were standing there and they were shot,” said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar at a news conference Thursday morning. “Just because they were police officers.”
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. denounced the “heinous and cowardly attacks,” and went on to say that the shooting should not impact the progress the county has recently made.
“What happened last night was a pure ambush,” said Holder in a press conference Thursday morning. “This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk, who was trying to sow discord.”
No identifications were made in the mass chaos. Authorities are currently trying to track down the suspects.