St. Louis County investigators announced on Sunday they had arrested Jeffrey Williams, a 20-year-old local man, for allegedly shooting two police officers Thursday near the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said that Williams may not have been trying to shoot police officers. He reportedly told investigators he had a prior dispute with protesters, and may have been targeting them.
Demonstrators had gathered at the police station on Wednesday after the news that the city's police chief, Tom Jackson, would resign, which came in the wake of a Department of Justice report that found broad racial bias in the city's police department and municipal court system.
What we know
- Two police officers were shot in Ferguson in the early hours of Thursday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference later that day. Both officers survived.
- Ferguson police arrested Jeffrey Williams, a local 20-year-old man, for the shooting, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said at a news conference on Sunday.
- Williams allegedly acknowledged his involvement in the shooting, according to McCulloch. But the suspect reportedly said he was reacting to a dispute he had with people at the protests. It's unclear if he was aiming at police.
- McCulloch said Williams previously participated in the Ferguson protests. But protesters told media outlets they don't know him.
- The gunshots were fired toward a line of about 25 police officers, Belmar said.
- The shots were fired after the demonstrations had quieted down, as police talked to protesters who had gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department building.
- Belmar said at a news conference early Thursday morning that one of the officers, a 32-year-old from Webster Groves, was shot in the face and the other, a 41-year-old from St. Louis County, was shot in the shoulder.
Watch: Ferguson shooting captured on video tonight by live streamer (beginning at 0:40) http://t.co/mq5urAYIEK— Jon Passantino (@passantino) March 12, 2015
- Both officers were treated for their wounds and released from the hospital, St. Louis County Police told Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce.
- McCulloch said Williams is charged with two counts of assault in the first degree, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle, and three counts of armed criminal action.
- Williams was already on probation for receiving stolen property.
What we don't know
- The names of the officers have not been released.
- Williams' motive, or whether he was aiming at police or protesters, is unclear, McCulloch said.
- Investigators don't know if Williams actually had a dispute with other protesters as he claims, according to McCulloch.
- It's unknown if more people were with Williams during the shooting.
Police-community relations in Ferguson
Chief Jackson was the sixth Ferguson official to resign or be fired in the wake of last week's Department of Justice report, which concluded that the Ferguson Police Department and the city's municipal officials engaged in a pattern of systemic discrimination against black residents, frequently violating their constitutional rights.
Relations between Ferguson community members and law enforcement officials have been the subject of scrutiny and protests since Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson has since resigned. A grand jury decided in November not to charge him in Brown's death, and the Justice Department announced last week that it found no basis to file federal civil rights charges against him.
Correction: This post originally identified "Tiffin Avenue" as "Tiffin Hill." It has been corrected.