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2 officers shot at protest outside Ferguson police station

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 3/12/2015 By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
A Ferguson police officer tries to separate a supporter of Michael Brown (R) from a Ferguson police supporter, outside the Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court in Ferguson, Missouri, March 15, 2015. News of Sunday's arrest of suspect Jeffrey Williams in last week's shooting of two policemen during a protest rally in Ferguson, prompted a show of support for Ferguson's beleaguered police force. Williams, 20, has admitted to firing the shots that wounded the officers early on Thursday, said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, and told investigators that he was not targeting police but was shooting at someone else. Protests in Ferguson after officers shooting

Update: This is a developing story.

12:30 P.M.

President Barack Obama says his thoughts and prayers are with the two police officers who were wounded in a shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

The president took to Twitter on Thursday to relay his prayers to the officers who were shot during a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters.

Obama also denounced violence against police, writing that the "path to justice is one all of us must travel together."

Obama signed the tweet with his initials, which indicates he personally composed the note.

The officers have been released from the hospital. One was shot in the face, while the other was shot in the shoulder.

12:20 p.m.

The family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose fatal shooting by a Ferguson police officer last year sparked widespread protests, is condemning the recent shooting of two Ferguson officers.

The family released a statement through their attorney, saying the shootings during a protest early Thursday were "senseless." They say they won't tolerate "any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement."

Brown's family also echoed sentiments by local activists denouncing the actions of "stand-alone agitators" who they say are trying to derail the nonviolent nationwide movement to address police brutality.

The family says its thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families.

11:20 A.M.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, was "inexcusable and repugnant."

Holder released a statement Thursday condemning violence against any public safety officials, calling it "cowardly."

He cited the early morning shootings in Ferguson that wounded two officers, along with this week's death of a deputy federal marshal in Louisiana and last week's killing of an officer in Philadelphia.

Holder says "such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that non-violent protesters in Ferguson and around the country" have been working toward for several months.

He says he hopes for the full and speedy recovery of the Ferguson officer, and said the U.S. Justice Department stands ready to assist in the investigation.

11 A.M.

Police have converged on a home in Ferguson and taken people in for questioning following the shootings of two police officers.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman says officers converged on the house Thursday. He said people were taken in for questioning, though other details weren't immediately released.

Both officers were shot shortly after midnight during a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters. The officers have been released from the hospital. One was shot in the face, the other in the shoulder. Their names haven't been released.

10:50 A.M.

A police spokesman says the two officers who were shot during a protest in Ferguson have been released from the hospital.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said Thursday that both officers have been released.

10:30 A.M.

Missouri's governor is asking the public for help identifying who shot two police officers in Ferguson.

Gov. Jay Nixon says the officers were "intentionally targeted" during protests outside Ferguson's police station. The governor says his thoughts and prayers are with the officers.

The Democrat says it's imperative that anyone with information about the shooting to immediately come forward, "so that those who perpetrated these senseless crimes can be apprehended and brought to justice."

Nixon says the Missouri State Highway Patrol is in contact with investigators with St. Louis County police and is ready to assist with the investigation.

Nixon says law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public, and he notes "the fact that these officers appear to have been intentionally targeted is deeply troubling."

10 A.M.

Local and national civil rights leaders are condemning the shootings of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri.

John Gaskin III, a St. Louis community activist, says the "disgraceful and cowardly" attack was conducted by outside agitators who were intent on hijacking attention from protests that he says have produced meaningful reforms.

Gaskin says activists "cannot afford these kinds of incidents happening, because that gets us absolutely nowhere."

One officer was shot in his face, the other in his shoulder, early Thursday morning during a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters following the resignation of the city's police chief. Both officers are hospitalized.

A spokesman for the Rev. Al Sharpton says Sharpton is against violence of any kind, especially against police.

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9 A.M.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says the two officers shot during a protest in Ferguson aren't expected to have long-term injuries.

Belmar says one of the officers was shot in his face, just below his right eye and the bullet lodged behind his ear. The other officer was shot in his right shoulder, with the bullet leaving out his back.

Belmar says the shooting easily could have resulted in two deaths. He cited the two New York City officers who were ambushed in their police cruiser in December.

Belmar said, "we could have buried 2 police officers next week over this."

8:45 A.M.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is calling for "healing and reform" after the shooting of two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department.

The Missouri senator released a statement Thursday saying "acts of violence have no place in this process."

Gunfire that erupted after midnight left a 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves with a facial wound and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County with a shoulder wound. Both were rushed to a hospital. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their injuries as serious.

The shootings followed a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police department and court.

McCaskill says she hoped for a "full recovery" for the officers and added that she was praying for them and their families.

Previous story.

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) - Two officers were shot in front of the Ferguson Police Department early Thursday, authorities said, as demonstrators gathered after the city's police chief resigned in the wake of a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police department and court.

A 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference. Both were taken to a hospital, where Belmar said they were conscious. He said he did not have further details about their conditions but described their injuries as "serious."

"I don't know who did the shooting, to be honest with you," Belmar said, adding that he could not provide a description of the suspect or gun.

He said he assumed, based on where the officers were standing and the trajectory of the bullets, that "these shots were directed exactly at my officers."

The shots were fired shortly after midnight as protesters gathered following the resignation of embattled Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Wednesday. Before the shooting, some at the protest chanted to show their dissatisfaction with the resignations of Jackson and City Manager John Shaw this week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies also assembled at the scene.

The protest was a familiar scene in Ferguson, which saw similar and much larger demonstrations after the shooting death of black 18-year-old Michael Brown last summer by city police officer Darren Wilson. A state grand jury cleared Wilson, who is white, in November, sparking further protests, looting and fires. But Thursday morning was the first time an officer at a protest had been shot.

In amateur video accessed by the Associated Press, two shots ring out and a man is heard screaming out in pain.

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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 told the AP that the protest had been mostly 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," Pitchford said. "All of a sudden everybody started running or dropping to the ground."

Belmar said the shots were fired from across the street from the police department.

After the shooting, officers with guns and in riot gear circled the station, and more than a dozen squad cars blocked the street.

Jackson was the sixth employee to resign or be fired after a Justice Department report last week cleared Wilson of civil rights charges in the shooting. Wilson has also resigned. A separate Justice Department report released the same day found a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias in the city police department.

Mayor James Knowles III announced Wednesday that the city had reached a mutual separation agreement with Jackson that will pay him 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.

Two officers shot: Police take cover after two officers were shot while standing guard in front of the Ferguson Police Station on Thursday, March 12, 2015. © AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Laurie Skrivan Police take cover after two officers were shot while standing guard in front of the Ferguson Police Station on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Jackson had 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 protests that followed. He was widely criticized from the outset for the aggressive police response to protests and 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 a short time before his death.

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 Shaw, the city manager.

Two officers shot: Police mobilize in the parking lot of the Ferguson Police Station after two police officers were shot while standing guard in front of the Ferguson Police Station on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Police mobilize in the parking lot of the Ferguson Police Station after two police officers were shot while standing guard in front of the Ferguson Police Station on Thursday, March 12, 2015.
© AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Laurie Skrivan

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