Man In Critical Condition After Exchanging Fire With Police During Ferguson Protest
Police officers shot a man after he opened fire on them late Sunday during protests in Ferguson, Mo., leaving the man in a “critical, unstable condition,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.
The shooting occurred during protests to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black teenager shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Mr. Belmar said plain clothes police officers had been tracking the man, who they believed was armed, when he opened fire at officers in an unmarked police van. The officers returned fire from inside the vehicle and then pursued the man on foot when he ran. They then exchanged further gunfire before he was struck and fell, Mr. Belmar said. The suspect, who hasn’t been identified, was using a stolen gun.
While the four officers involved weren’t injured they have been placed on administrative leave until they are fit for duty, Mr. Belmar said. The officers weren’t wearing body cams.
The shooting happened shortly after two groups exchanged gunfire, sending protesters running for cover, Mr. Belmar said at a news conference. He added that there had been a “remarkable amount of gunfire.”
Protesters and police had squared off Sunday evening, with officers donning riot gear, including shields. Mr. Belmar said one police officer was treated for a face injury but didn’t comment on the number of arrests.
However, Mr. Belmar said those who fired shots weren’t demonstrators.
“They were criminals, they weren’t protesters,” he said, adding that there was a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.”
Hundreds of people had earlier gathered to mark the anniversary of the fatal shooting of Mr. Brown. His shooting and subsequent riots led to a summer of protests in the St. Louis suburb and launched a national discussion on race and policing in the U.S.
Shots rang out just after 11.15 p.m., the Associated Press reported, disrupting a demonstration along West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson. Protesters fled as the shots were fired, hiding behind cars and taking cover in buildings, the AP reported, as dozens of police cars and an armored vehicle converged on the area.
Police sent at least one Bearcat armored vehicle near the scene of where shots were fired, according to radio traffic on a local police scanner.
At least two unmarked police cars were hit by gunfire, according to St. Louis County Police Departments’s official Twitter account.
Phil Gassoway, a protester and activist in Ferguson, said the marches had been peaceful until late Sunday night when gunfire was heard.
“It was crazy. There was a lot of commotion. People were ducking,” he said.
Mr. Gassoway said a fellow protester and activist, Tony Rice, was briefly detained by police after taking video footage of a man who was wounded by gunfire and lay on the ground with officers nearby.
Following the burst of gunfire, the mood in Ferguson changed from a day of peaceful protest to renewed frustration, Mr. Gassoway said.
“People are mad. They’re tired of the police,” he said.