Belmar: 'Lucky by God's grace we didn't lose two officers' - KMOV.com

Belmar: 'Lucky by God's grace we didn't lose two officers'

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Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.
Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.
Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.
Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.
Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Two police officers shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.
FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Ferguson, Missouri (KMOV) – St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar stated the department was “lucky by God's grace we didn't lose two officers” after protests turned violent in Ferguson Thursday morning.

Belmar said two officers were standing near one another when three to four shots were fired towards them.

A St. Louis County officer suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder, the bullet exited his body near his spine, and an officer from Webster Groves was shot on the high point of his cheek, that the bullet became lodged behind his ear. Authorities say the two officers were standing next to each other, working crowd control outside of the Ferguson Police Department, when the incident occurred around midnight.

Belmar said the shots were fired from near a group of protesters at a line of about 20 officers.

“When they heard the bullets zinging past they saw muzzle flashes probably 125 yards away,” Belmar said in a press conference Thursday.

One officer at the scene described the incident to News 4 as an ambush.

“These were shots that were parallel to the ground, not up in the air, they were not skip shots. I would have to make an assumption that these shots were directed exactly at my police officers,” said Chief Belmar.

Belmar described the officer's injuries as serious gunshot wounds, but said they should suffer “no long term injuries.” Both officers were conscious when they were rushed to the hospital.

According to St. Louis County Police Officer Shawn McGuire both officers were released from the hospital Thursday morning.

Chief Belmar told News 4 that the officer from St. Louis County Police is 41 years old with 14 years of experience. The officer from the Webster Groves Police Department is 32 years old with five years of service.

Belmar said police have some leads, but are letting detectives work on suspects. He said this case is the number one priority of the St. Louis Police Department.

During Thursday's press conference, Belmar said he is not blaming anyone “other than the individuals who took a shot at my officers.” He continued on by saying people “need to understand the dangers of this.”

“This shooting is a criminal act that jeopardized the lives of police officers and protesters both. I hope the officers have a full recovery and pray for them and their families. It's time for healing and reform, and acts of violence have no place in this process,” Senator Claire McCaskill said in a released statement.

Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement regarding the shooting Thursday morning:

“This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant. I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms, and the Department of Justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities—from this cowardly action, to the killing of an officer in Philadelphia last week while he was buying a game for his son, to the tragic loss of a Deputy U.S. Marshal in the line of duty in Louisiana earlier this week. Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months. We wish these injured officers a full and speedy recovery. We stand ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department's full range of investigative resources. And we will continue to stand unequivocally against all acts of violence against cops whenever and wherever they occur.”

Thursday morning, Gov. Nixon released the following statement regarding the shooting:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to these brave officers and their families. Each day, our law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public and the fact that these officers appear to have been intentionally targeted is deeply troubling. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has been in contact with the St. Louis County Police Department and stands ready to assist in the investigation. It is imperative that anyone with information about the shooting immediately come forward so that those who perpetrated these senseless crimes can be apprehended and brought to justice.”

Police in riot gear were called out as protesters started gathering following the announcement Wednesday that embattled Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson was stepping down. The Ferguson Police Department requested assistance from neighboring officers starting around 10:00 p.m. Police said three arrests were made outside the police department throughout the night and majority of the protesters began to “thin out” around 11:45 p.m.

During the protest, News 4 cameras captured a fight between protesters outside of the Ferguson Police Department.

The family of Michael Brown, Jr. condemned the shooting in a statement they released to the media Thursday morning:

“The family of Michael Brown, Jr. condemns this morning's senseless shooting of two Ferguson police officers.

We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot and will not be tolerated.

We specifically denounce the actions of stand-alone agitators who unsuccessfully attempt to derail the otherwise peaceful and non-violent movement that has emerged throughout this nation to confront police brutality and to forward the cause of equality under the law for all.

We must work together to bring peace to our communities.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the officers injured during this morning's shooting and their families.”

Senator Claire McCaskill released the following statement regarding the shooting:

“This shooting is a criminal act that jeopardized the lives of police officers and protesters both. I hope the officers have a full recovery and pray for them and their families. It's time for healing and reform, and acts of violence have no place in this process."

Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement regarding the shooting Thursday morning:

“This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant. I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms, and the Department of Justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities—from this cowardly action, to the killing of an officer in Philadelphia last week while he was buying a game for his son, to the tragic loss of a Deputy U.S. Marshal in the line of duty in Louisiana earlier this week. Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months. We wish these injured officers a full and speedy recovery. We stand ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department's full range of investigative resources. And we will continue to stand unequivocally against all acts of violence against cops whenever and wherever they occur.”

Thursday morning, Gov. Nixon released the following statement regarding the shooting:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to these brave officers and their families. Each day, our law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect the public and the fact that these officers appear to have been intentionally targeted is deeply troubling. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has been in contact with the St. Louis County Police Department and stands ready to assist in the investigation. It is imperative that anyone with information about the shooting immediately come forward so that those who perpetrated these senseless crimes can be apprehended and brought to justice.”

City of Ferguson responds:

"The City of Ferguson would like to offer our gratitude to all of the law enforcement agencies that have aided our community over the past seven months. Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families who were injured last night. This act of violence against police and residents has no place in our community or our country. The St. Louis County Police Department is conducting an investigation into the shooting and we are confident that the individuals responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Violence cannot and will not be tolerated in the City of Ferguson.

The City continues to take corrective action to address issues that have been brought out since August 9th. We have made changes at the highest level of our administration, police, and courts to allow this city to make a fresh start. City leadership is diligently working to make systematic changes necessary to instill confidence in the city, our police, and our courts. We are committed to making sure that our police department and court system operate under the principles of professionalism and fairness.

While we respect the right to peacefully protest, we cannot continue to move forward under threats of violence and destruction to our community. We ask our residents and clergy in this area to partner with us as we make our way through this process. We can only succeed with your help. Please stand with us as we ask for peace, prayer, and unity. Together we can heal and unite this community."

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