Two Ferguson police officers were shot during a protest outside Ferguson, Missouri according to police headquarters early on Thursday. Police said, just hours after the city's police chief quit following a damning U.S. Justice Department report into his force.
The shooting of the officers, who were in serious condition at a hospital, was the latest incident in months of turmoil in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, which has been at the center of an intense national debate over police use of force, particularly against black men, since a white officer killed an unarmed black teenager there in August.
41-year-old officer from his department was struck in the shoulder and a 32-year-old officer from the nearby Webster Groves Police Department was hit in the face about midnight as the crowd was starting to break up.
"These police officers were standing there and they were shot, just because they were police officers," Belmar said. "I have said all along that we cannot sustain this forever without problems."
The night started peacefully but about two dozen officers clad in riot gear later faced off with the protesters. At least two people were taken into custody.
Gunshots rang out about midnight turning a scene of relative quiet into pandemonium. Many of the remaining few dozen demonstrators fled, some screaming.
The line of police scrambled, with many taking defensive positions drawing their weapons and some huddling behind riot shields, according to a video published online.
Belmar said the shooter was among the demonstrators standing across from the officers.
"I don't know who did the shooting, to be honest with you right now, but somehow they were embedded in that group of folks," he said.
Protesters at the scene, however, said on social media that the shots did not come from where they were standing.
"The shooter was not with the protesters. The shooter was atop the hill," activist DeRay McKesson said on Twitter.
"I was here. I saw the officer fall. The shot came from at least 500 feet away from the officers," he said.
Jackson was the latest in a string of Ferguson officials to resign in the week since a scathing Justice Department report found widespread racially biased abuses in the city's policing and municipal court.
The investigation found that the city used police as a collection agency, citing traffic citations to black residents to boost city coffers through fines, creating a "toxic environment."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last Friday that the Department would use its full authority to demand police reforms in Ferguson, including possibly dismantling the department.