CLAYTON, Mo. – A 20-year-old man was charged with first-degree assault in the shooting of two police officers in front of the Ferguson Police Department early Thursday, according to Robert P. McCulloch, who announced the charges in Clayton on Sunday.
The man, Jeffrey Williams, acknowledged firing the shots, McCulloch said.
“It was possible he was firing shots at someone other than the police but struck the police officers,” McCulloch said.
Williams was in custody, McCulloch said. He stressed that the investigation was continuing and that additional arrests may be made. The suspect was found through information provided by community members.
The two officers – one from the county police and the other from the nearby Webster Groves department – were standing shoulder to shoulder as part of a protective line facing demonstrators across the street from the police station. At least three gunshots came from a distance behind the demonstrators, as much as 125 yards away, the authorities said.
The demonstration followed an announcement that the Ferguson police chief, Thomas Jackson, was resigning. Jackson became the latest senior city administrator to step down after a Justice Department report accused the city of using its municipal court and police force as moneymaking tools that routinely violated constitutional rights and disproportionately targeted blacks. The municipal judge and city manager, as well as the top court clerk and two police supervisors, have stepped down in the wake of the report’s release last week.
The two officers, whom the authorities declined to name, were treated at a hospital and were recuperating at home, according to Chief Jon M. Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department.
The Webster Groves officer, 32, a seven-year veteran, was shot in the face, the bullet entering under his right eye and becoming lodged behind his ear, officials said. The county officer, 41, a 14-year veteran, was shot in the shoulder, with the bullet exiting his back.
The shooting ratcheted up tensions that have been simmering here since Aug. 9, when a white police officer, Darren Wilson, fatally shot an unarmed, 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson in November.