Latest on Ferguson: Activists denounce shootings of police

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Police shine a light on a helmet as they investigate the scene where two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson Police Department Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

8:45 P.M.

About 50 people have gathered at a public plaza in downtown Ferguson near the police station for a vigil.

The group sang spirituals Thursday night and prayed for peace as the St. Louis suburb seeks changes in the wake of a withering Justice Department report on racial bias in its law-enforcement practices.

Speakers, including several members of the state’s Ferguson Commission, expressed sympathies for two law enforcement officers who were shot during a protest a night earlier outside of the police department. They also reiterated their resolve to continue fighting for systemic change more than seven months after the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

“We will not be derailed in the pursuit of justice by anybody or anything that wants to get in our way,” the Rev. Traci Blackmon said, her voice cracking with emotion as she spoke.

8 P.M.

The scene outside the Ferguson Police Department is mostly quiet a day after two officers were shot during a protest outside the building.

Several dozen protesters were milling around outside police headquarters in the St. Louis suburb Thursday evening, vastly outnumbered by media. Police presence also was minimal.

The scene is a dramatic shift from Wednesday night, when an unusually spread-out and unruly crowd gathered there following the resignation of the city’s police chief.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol and St. Louis County police have taken over security of protests in Ferguson, though local police are still responsible for routine police services.

6 P.M.

Police say several people taken into custody for questioning following the shooting of two officers in Ferguson, Missouri, have been released and no arrests have been made.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman says the individuals were taken into custody Thursday at a house about three-quarters of a mile from the shooting scene near Ferguson police headquarters.

Schellman didn’t say how many people were questioned, but he says all had been released by Thursday evening and no one had been arrested.

The officers were shot and wounded during an early-morning protest Thursday. Both were later released from a hospital.

The protest was prompted by the resignation of Ferguson’s police chief, the latest official to leave office following a scathing federal report accusing Ferguson courts and police of racial bias.

5:30 P.M.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is sending more troopers to Ferguson following the shooting of two police officers in the St. Louis suburb.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced the additional help Thursday, but his office wouldn’t say how many additional officers were being sent in to help.

The Democratic governor says he spoke with the county executive and local police officials over the phone, though details weren’t released. Nixon says he’s monitoring the situation and will stay in contact with local leaders.

The Highway Patrol and St. Louis County police are now overseeing security during protests in Ferguson.

3:30 P.M.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says whoever shot two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, is a “punk” intent on hurting a community trying to change.

Holder spoke with reporters in Washington on Thursday following an early-morning shooting that wounded two officers during a protest in the St. Louis suburb. No suspects have been named.

Holder says the shooter is “not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson.” He says the shooter is “a damn punk… trying to sow discord in an area that was trying to get its act together, trying to bring together a community that had been fractured for too long.”

The protest followed Wednesday’s resignation of Ferguson’s police chief, the latest city official to leave office since the U.S. Department of Justice accused Ferguson’s courts and police of racial bias.

3:15 P.M.

The Highway Patrol and St. Louis County police are taking over security efforts during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Police released a statement Thursday saying the two agencies would take over the responsibility from the Ferguson Police Department as of 6 p.m.

The announcement comes after two officers were shot and wounded during an early-morning protest outside Ferguson police headquarters. No suspects have been named.

The protest was prompted by the resignation of Ferguson’s police chief, the latest official to resign following a scathing federal report accusing Ferguson courts and police of racial bias.

The St. Louis County Police Department says it won’t be taking over routine police services in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. It says those responsibilities are still in the hands of Ferguson police.

3 P.M.

Local protest leaders say the shootings of two police officers during a rally in Ferguson don’t reflect their nonviolent movement.

Rev. Traci Blackmon said Thursday that she and other protest organizers are praying for the wounded officers and their families.

She says that “as frequent victims of violence, we certainly understand and know well the pain of these senseless acts.”

The protest began Wednesday, shortly after Ferguson’s police chief resigned. It was the latest fallout from a scathing U.S. Department of Justice report that accused the city’s police and courts of racial bias.

Montague Simmons, chairman of the Organization for Black Struggle, says “elected officials still have a lot to answer for.” He says issues cited in the DOJ’s report aren’t confined to Ferguson.

2 P.M.

Activists helping organize ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, say the early-morning shooting of two police officers during a rally was senseless.

The St. Louis-based Organization for Black Struggle says it’ll publicly discuss the shooting Thursday.

The activists have helped maintain protests against police brutality since a white Ferguson police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in August. Brown, who was black, was unarmed.

Two officers were shot and wounded early Thursday during a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says the rally was unusually rowdy and included fist-fights. Belmar says the crowd had dissipated to about 75 protesters, and about 20 to 25 officers were lined up, when three to four shots were fired.

Belmar says he could tell from video that the shots were directed at his officers, noting that the “singing” sound of the gunfire indicated bullets weren’t shot up or into the ground.

12:30 P.M.

President Barack Obama says his thoughts and prayers are with the two police officers who were wounded in a shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

The president took to Twitter on Thursday to relay his prayers to the officers who were shot during a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters.

Obama also denounced violence against police, writing that the “path to justice is one all of us must travel together.”

Obama signed the tweet with his initials, which indicates he personally composed the note.

The officers have been released from the hospital. One was shot in the face, while the other was shot in the shoulder.

12:20 P.M.

The family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose fatal shooting by a Ferguson police officer last year sparked widespread protests, is condemning the recent shooting of two Ferguson officers.

The family released a statement through their attorney, saying the shootings during a protest early Thursday were “senseless.” They say they won’t tolerate “any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement.”

Brown’s family also echoed sentiments by local activists denouncing the actions of “stand-alone agitators” who they say are trying to derail the nonviolent nationwide movement to address police brutality.

The family says its thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families.

11:20 A.M.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, was “inexcusable and repugnant.”

Holder released a statement Thursday condemning violence against any public safety officials, calling it “cowardly.”

He cited the early morning shootings in Ferguson that wounded two officers, along with this week’s death of a deputy federal marshal in Louisiana and last week’s killing of an officer in Philadelphia.

Holder says “such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that non-violent protesters in Ferguson and around the country” have been working toward for several months.

He says he hopes for the full and speedy recovery of the Ferguson officer, and said the U.S. Justice Department stands ready to assist in the investigation.

11 A.M.

Police have converged on a home in Ferguson and taken people in for questioning following the shootings of two police officers.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman says officers converged on the house Thursday. He said people were taken in for questioning, though other details weren’t immediately released.

Both officers were shot shortly after midnight during a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters. The officers have been released from the hospital. One was shot in the face, the other in the shoulder. Their names haven’t been released.

10:50 A.M.

A police spokesman says the two officers who were shot during a protest in Ferguson have been released from the hospital.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said Thursday that both officers have been released.

10:30 A.M.

Missouri’s governor is asking the public for help identifying who shot two police officers in Ferguson.

Gov. Jay Nixon says the officers were “intentionally targeted” during protests outside Ferguson’s police station. The governor says his thoughts and prayers are with the officers.

The Democrat says it’s imperative that anyone with information about the shooting to immediately come forward, “so that those who perpetrated these senseless crimes can be apprehended and brought to justice.”

Nixon says the Missouri State Highway Patrol is in contact with investigators with St. Louis County police and is ready to assist with the investigation.

Nixon says law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public, and he notes “the fact that these officers appear to have been intentionally targeted is deeply troubling.”

10 A.M.

Local and national civil rights leaders are condemning the shootings of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri.

John Gaskin III, a St. Louis community activist, says the “disgraceful and cowardly” attack was conducted by outside agitators who are intent on hijacking attention from protests that he says have produced meaningful reforms.

Gaskin says activists “cannot afford these kinds of incidents happening, because that gets us absolutely nowhere.”

One officer was shot in his face, the other in his shoulder, during a protest early Thursday morning outside Ferguson police headquarters. The protest followed the resignation of the city’s police chief. Both officers are hospitalized.

A spokesman for the Rev. Al Sharpton says Sharpton is against violence of any kind, especially against police.

9:30 A.M.

St. Louis County’s top official says the shooting of two officers in Ferguson shouldn’t be a setback for the community’s healing process.

County Executive Steve Stenger says he supports residents expressing their First Amendment rights in a nonviolent way, and believes Ferguson residents are concerned about the officers.

He says, “I think everyone with reasonable minds would want to avoid situations like this.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says a protest outside Ferguson police headquarters appeared to be winding down when the officers were shot just after midnight. He characterized the shooting as an “ambush.”

He says both officers “are good guys. I’m proud of them.”

9 A.M.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says the two officers shot during a protest in Ferguson aren’t expected to have long-term injuries.

Belmar says one of the officers was shot in his face, just below his right eye and the bullet lodged behind his ear. The other officer was shot in his right shoulder, with the bullet leaving out his back.

Belmar says the shooting easily could have resulted in two deaths. He cited the two New York City officers who were ambushed in their police cruiser in December.

Belmar said, “we could have buried two police officers next week over this.”

8:45 A.M.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is calling for “healing and reform” after the shooting of two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department.

The Missouri senator released a statement Thursday saying “acts of violence have no place in this process.”

Gunfire that erupted after midnight left a 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves with a facial wound and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County with a shoulder wound. Both were rushed to a hospital. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their injuries as serious.

The shootings followed a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police department and court.

McCaskill says she hoped for a “full recovery” for the officers and added that she was praying for them and their families.

8 A.M.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar is planning a news conference to further address the shooting of two police officers during a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department.

A 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder.

Belmar said earlier Thursday that the officers were taken to a hospital, where they are conscious, but that both are seriously injured.

He is scheduled to speak again at 9 a.m. at the St. Louis County Police Headquarters.

The shootings happened after midnight as demonstrators gathered after the city’s police chief resigned in the wake of a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police department and court.

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