Mere hours after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson announced his resignation, two police officers were shot during a protest at police headquarters just before 1 a.m. Thursday.
A 41-year-old officer from the St. Louis County Police was hit in the shoulder, with the bullet dislodging from the middle of his back, said Police Chief Jon Belmar, who leads the police in the county that includes Ferguson. A 32-year-old officer from the nearby Webster Groves Police Department was shot in the cheek bone, with the bullet lodged near his ear. The officers, according to the chief, stood next to each other when they were hit.
“This is really an ambush, is what it is,” Belmar said. “You can’t see it coming. You don’t understand that it’s going to happen.”
A search is underway for the shooter or shooters. A local news affiliate captured images of a tactical team entering a roof in Ferguson, allegedly as part of this investigation.
The protests came in the wake of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that began after the killing of Michael Brown in August, 2014.
In a statement, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder described Thursday’s shootings as “inexcusable and repugnant. … Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards.”
But gunfire is a familiar sound at the protests and Belmar says it’s “a miracle” this hasn’t happened before. This isn’t the first time we’ve been shot at during protests, he said, it’s the first time we’ve been hit.
Police around the nation have been feeling the heat for months. At our seminars we’ve heard from dozens of officers who won’t take their duty vehicles home for fear of being targeted as police. This sense of persecution came to a boiling point with the Dec. 20, 2014, murders of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by a man who expressed hatred for police.
“Police morale is the lowest I’ve seen in my career,” says Jim Glennon, lead instructor and owner of Calibre Press. “No, it’s lower than that—the lowest I’ve seen in my life. There are going to be—there have got to be—repercussions for this hatred toward police, and, unfortunately, it’s the most vulnerable who will pay the price. My prayers go out to these officers and their families. It’s just terrible.”
A recent Calibre Press poll found that more than 81% of police officers would not recommend the job to a loved one. Among the top reasons cited were public disaffection and dangers of the job.