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.
The grand jury presiding over Darren Wilson’s shooting of teen Michael Brown concluded yesterday evening. The jury found Wilson not guilty, setting off another bought of chaotic rioting throughout the streets of Ferguson.
Protests rippled across the country — from Chicago and Los Angeles to Seattle and Portland. Hundreds of Portlanders marched to the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct where some drew chalk body lines representing African Americans killed by police.
Approximately 20 Portlanders drove to Ferguson in what some called this generation’s “Freedom Ride.”
“We want our young people to believe their lives matter,” said Lakeitha Elliot, a Portland resident who volunteers at Jefferson High School. “When the media and the justice system act like their lives don’t matter, it’s hard to have our young people believe that their lives do.”
Some Portland police officers posted photos on Facebook of their police badges wrapped in bracelets that read “I am Darren Wilson.” Yesterday, Police Chief Mike Reese ordered these photos be removed.
“Their actions do a disservice to the hundreds of Portland Police Officers who are building relationships and partnerships with the community every day,” Mayor Charlie Hales said of the officers who cited Wilson on Facebook.
Wilson announced he may resign from the Ferguson Police Department, telling colleagues that he considered resigning “to help ease pressure and protect his fellow officers.”
“It would be senseless for him to go back to Ferguson,” CNN legal analyst Mark O’Mara said. “And I don’t even think he can go back to law enforcement, for the same reason. He is still now going to carry with him this mantle that he was the cop who killed the young black kid that sparked the controversy nationwide.”
Anticipating the brewing violence, many Ferguson shop owners boarded over their doors and windows in advance of the grand jury’s decision. Multiple schools also closed.
Despite their grief, the parents of Michael Brown urged protesters to act peacefully.
“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” the couple said in a statement. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
The Browns are working to promote new laws requiring all officers to wear cameras on their uniforms.
“I hope something really good comes out of all of this. Otherwise, [Brown] would have died in vain,” Stoney Shaw, pastor at First Baptist Church Ferguson, told CNN.
In a video released Thursday, September 25, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson made a public apology to Michael Brown’s family and the Ferguson community for the tragedy that took place in August.
August 9, unarmed Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. His body was left in the street during investigation for nearly four hours.
Jackson began the video by saying, “I want to say this to the Brown family: No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. I am truly sorry for the loss of your son.
“I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street. The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that,” Jackson continued.
Michael Brown’s death and Officer Wilson’s trial sparked great debate and controversy among the Ferguson community. Over the past month, many peaceful protesters paid homage at the crime scene. However, violent demonstrators have also been present, wreaking havoc by looting and vandalizing nearby businesses and assaulting Ferguson police officers.
Jackson addressed the peaceful protesters, whose safety was jeopardized during the riots. “The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone who was peacefully exercising that right is upset and angry, I feel responsible and I’m sorry,” he said.
Controversy will continue to surround the case as the grand jury comes to a decision regarding Officer Wilson’s indictment. The case is expected to be resolved as soon as late October. Until then, Officer Wilson will remain on paid administrative leave.
“Overnight I went from being a small-town police chief to being part of a conversation about racism, equality and the role of policing in that conversation. As chief of police, I want to be part of that conversation. I also want to be part of the solution. The city belongs to all of us and we’re all part of this community. It is clear that we have much work to do. As a community, a city and a nation, we have real problems to solve,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s video has been accepted with general gratitude, including from Ferguson committeewoman, Patricia Bynes.
“I think that what’s happening is some assessment of what took place. One thing that I think the community feels is that no one in Ferguson is learning anything. Now it seems like there’s been some reflection,” Bynes said.
“For any mistakes I’ve made, I take full responsibility. It’s an honor to serve the city of Ferguson and the people who live there. I look forward to working with you in the future to solve our problems, and once again, I deeply apologize to the Brown family,” Jackson concluded.
To view the full video, follow this link.