(AP) – Two officers were shot in front of the Ferguson Police Department early Thursday as demonstrators gathered after the police chief resigned in the wake of a scathing Justice Department report alleging bias in the police force and local courts.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said one officer was shot in the face, just below his right eye, with the bullet lodging behind his ear. The other officer was hit in the shoulder, and the bullet came out his back.
Both men were expected to recover without suffering any long-term damage, Belmar said, but the wounds could easily have been mortal.
“We could have buried two police officers next week over this,” he said.
The 32-year-old officer who was shot in the face was from nearby Webster Groves. The second officer, 41, came from St. Louis County.
Both were taken to a hospital, where Belmar said they were conscious.
Authorities believe the shots came from a handgun. There were no suspects in custody.
Based on where the officers were standing and the trajectory of the bullets, the shots appeared to be aimed directed at the police, Belmar said.
“This is really an ambush,” he said. “You are basically defenseless. It is hard to guard against.”
The shots were fired shortly after midnight as protesters gathered following Wednesday’s resignation of embattled Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson. Before the shooting, some at the protest chanted to show their dissatisfaction with the resignations of Jackson and City Manager John Shaw this week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies also assembled at the scene.