By TIM ROWDEN
Two police officers, both members of the Fraternal Order of Police, were shot March 11 while protecting the public, keeping the peace and providing a human barrier between protesters and city buildings in Ferguson.
A 32-year-old officer from Webster Groves Police Department was shot just bellow the right eye and the bullet lodged below his right ear. A 41-year-old St. Louis County Police officer was struck in the right shoulder, and the bullet exited through the right side of his back.
“We’re sickened and saddened by the continued violence against law enforcement,” said Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. “These are not life threatening injuries but they’re very serious injuries and there potentially could be very long recoveries.”
The officers had been standing in a line of about 25 officers when the shots were fired.
Roorda praised the officers on the scene for their courage and commitment to protecting the public even while under fire.
“The police didn’t run for cover or start firing indiscriminately in the direction that the shots were fired,” Roorda said. “They got the protesters, the people that were shouting at them and demeaning them, on the ground and out of harm’s way. Their very first impulse was to protect them when the shots started.”
On Sunday, March 15, authorities charged Jeffrey Williams, 20, who lives near Ferguson, with two counts each of first-degree assault and armed criminal action, and one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle. His bond was set at $300,000.
A POWDER KEG
Ferguson has been a virtual powder keg since August when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was shot to death following a physical confrontation with a Ferguson police officer.
Shots rang out around midnight March 11 as a rally in front of the city’s police headquarters was dispersing hours after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resigned in the wake of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that accused his department of racial bias.
U.S Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement calling the shootings “inexcusable and repugnant.”
Holder added, “Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards.”
OFFICERS AT RISK
The incident marked the second area police shooting since November, when a University City police officer was shot in the arm while responding to a report of a home intruder. The gunman had earlier shot his mother, leaving her fatally wounded.
“He has, for all intents and purposes, lost the use of his left arm and will never get it back,” Roorda said of the University City officer.
“When you get shot, it’s not like “Miami Vice.” You don’t get up; brush it off, and starting shooting back at the bad guys. These are very serious injuries.”
Roorda called on political leaders to take the steps necessary to keep the public and police officers safe.
“We’d like to see politicians who say that they support labor unions, support our labor union,” Roorda said. “We’d like to see them call for curfews and for an end to the violence against police.”
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, called the shootings “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.”
Gov. Jay Nixon also released a statement. “My thoughts and prayers go out to these brave officers and their families,” Nixon said. “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.”
Special fund established to help ambushed police officers
To help the two police officers ambushed and shot March 11 in Ferguson, the Fraternal Order of Police has sent up a special fund to help the officers with extraordinary expenses at: fop.giveback.org/pages/custom/fop/shieldofhope.aspx.
“Whatever you can afford – $5, $10, $25 – will be extraordinarily helpful to them and appreciated by our entire law enforcement family,” said St. Louis FOP Business Manager Jeff Roorda.[/box]