Search Continues For Perpetrators In Ferguson Police Shootings

Mar 12, 2015
Originally published on March 12, 2015 6:43 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Authorities in Ferguson, Mo., say the two police officers shot at a protest outside the police headquarters have been released from the hospital and are not expected to suffer any permanent injuries. The shooting occurred earlier this morning after the city announced that Ferguson's police chief would resign in the aftermath of a blistering Department of Justice report on the city's police department. Both President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke out against last night's shooting. Here's the attorney general.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was - this was a damn punk.

CORNISH: NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Ferguson and joins us now. And, Cheryl, the officers who were injured were not Ferguson Police Department officers, rights? They were part of the force that helps during the protests. What more details have you learned about what happened?

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Well, the officers - one was a 32-year-old from Webster Groves. That's a suburb that's nearby. He was shot in the face just below his right eye - a bullet lodged behind his ear. The other officer's 41. He's with the St. Louis County police and he was hit in the shoulder. Police say they believe those shots came from a handgun that was fired just about 120 yards away. And later in the day, they actually swarmed on this home in the area. They took some people in for questioning, but no arrests have been made. St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters he could actually hear those shots singing. And he said they appeared to be aimed directly at the police.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JON BELMAR: This is really an ambush is what it is. I mean, you know, you can't see it coming. You don't understand that it's going to happen. And you're basically defenseless from the fact that it is happening to you at the time. And that is something that is very difficult to guard against.

CORLEY: And Belmar compared the situation to that recent shooting in New York, which left two police officers dead. Fortunately, that was not the result here.

CORNISH: We mentioned President Obama and Attorney General Holder speaking out today. What's been the response in Missouri?

CORLEY: Well, as you can imagine, a lot of people have been surprised, a lot of people disappointed. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill called it a criminal act. She called for healing. And also here, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who appeared with police chief Belmar at this morning's news conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE STENGER: I don't believe that it's going to affect any healing process that's going on in the community. I think that the community at large is fully supportive of these officers and probably wishes the very best for them. And I think everyone with reasonable minds want to avoid situations like this.

CORNISH: Cheryl, with more protests potentially on the way, what kind of challenge does that mean for police?

CORLEY: Well, as you can imagine, Audie, the tension has ratcheted up here. And I think the shooting will definitely put them in a different frame of mind. I expect them just to be more worried. There was much criticism several months ago when they came out with the riot gear. But Chief Belmar says safety for everyone will be the concern.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BELMAR: When you look at the tenor of at least some of the people that are involved in the protest or civil unrest, it, at times, can be very troubling. And it's difficult for the officers to discern within a crowd of folks that are perhaps there for the right reason, exactly who's doing what.

CORLEY: And I think everyone is just hoping that this morning's shootings are an anomaly that just won't happen again.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Cheryl Corley in Ferguson. Cheryl, thank you.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.