Two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson Police Department headquarters early Thursday morning, local authorities have confirmed. Both officers are in what was described as "serious condition," though their injuries were reported as "not life-threatening."
The shootings took place just after midnight as a protest outside the station—described later by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar as "otherwise uneventful"—began to wind down. People had gathered at the station in response to news on Wednesday that several high-ranking city officials, including Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and City Manager John Shaw, had submitted their resignations in response to a damning Justice Department report on a pattern of racial bias in the St. Louis suburb.
The Associated Press provided this video:
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said one officer was with his department and the other was with the Webster Groves department. Both were being treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where Belmar spoke, and were in serious condition.
The chief said at least three shots were fired. He described the injuries of both men as "very serious gunshot injuries."
The Webster Groves officer was shot in the face. He is 32 and has been on the force seven years.
The county officer was hit in the shoulder. That officer is 41 and has been on the force for 14 years.
Belmar said no suspects have been identified in the shootings.
He said he believes the officers were targeted. They had been standing in a group when the shots were fired. The gunfire was "parallel to the ground," he said.
The city of Ferguson has been at the center of a national debate surrounding race and police violence since the community reacted with protest following the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August of last year. Wednesday night's protest at the station reportedly numbered about 60-70 people.
Marciay Pitchford, 20, was among the protesters outside the police department. She described to the Associated Press how the protest had been mostly peaceful until she heard the shots ring out shortly after midnight.
"I saw the officer go down and the other police officers drew their guns while other officers dragged the injured officer away," Pitchford told AP. "All of a sudden everybody started running or dropping to the ground."
After the shots were fired, reports the Post-Dispatch, the scene turned to chaos:
Some protesters dropped to the ground. Others fled the scene.
Several members of the media, including a Post-Dispatch reporter and photographer, were near the officers who were hit.
Media and police ran behind two brick walls and officers pulled out their weapons. Then a line of police cars from more than a dozen departments arrived.
Police closed South Florissant Road in front of the police station and cordoned a section of the area off with crime scene tape.
Belmar said the shots were fired from across Florissant Road, northwest of the police department. Witnesses said the shots appeared to come from the direction of a block of homes on Tiffin Avenue that intersects South Florissant Road, where the police department is located.
Bradley Rayford, a freelance journalist who has been reporting from Ferguson since the unrest began there last summer, said he saw three or four muzzle flashes from the crest of Tiffin Hill, a residential neighborhood with large century-old homes.
He was in front of the police line on South Florissant at the time. He said he couldn't tell if the shots were being fired from a vehicle.
At 2:30 a.m. a contingent of about 25 officers ascended the hill and began scouring the front yard of a home directly behind a tire business, their flashlights sweeping in arcs as they searched for evidence.
The gunfire rang out as the protests seemed to be dwindling.