20-year-old charged in shootings of 2 officers

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)

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) – A 20-year-old man charged Sunday with shooting two police officers who were keeping watch over a demonstration outside the Ferguson Police Department had participated in the protests earlier that night, police said.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said Jeffrey Williams told authorities he was firing at someone with whom he was in a dispute, not at the police officers.

Jeffrey Williams, 20, is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action in connection with the shooting of two police officers who were keeping watch over a demonstration outside the Ferguson Police Department on March 12. (AP Photo/St. Louis County Police Department)
Jeffrey Williams, 20, is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. (AP Photo/St. Louis County Police Department)

“We’re not sure we completely buy that part of it,” McCulloch said, adding that there might have been other people in the vehicle with Williams.

Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. McCulloch said the investigation is ongoing.

The officers were shot early Thursday as a crowd began to break up after a late-night demonstration that unfolded after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resigned in the wake of the scathing federal Justice Department report.

“He was out there earlier that evening as part of the demonstration,” McCulloch said of Williams.

A 41-year-old St. Louis County officer was shot in the right shoulder, the bullet exiting through his back. A 32-year-old officer from Webster Groves was wearing a riot helmet with the face shield up. He was shot in the right cheek, just below the eye, and the bullet lodged behind his ear. The officers were released from the hospital later Thursday.

McCulloch said Williams used a 40mm handgun, which matches the shell casings at the scene.

Williams, who St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said is black, is being held on $300,000 bond.

The north St. Louis County resident was on probation in St. Louis County for receiving stolen property, McCulloch said. “I think there was a warrant out for him on that because he had neglected to report for the last seven months to his probation officer,” he said.

Belmar said Thursday that the officers could have easily been killed, and called the attack “an ambush,” citing the two New York City officers who were shot and killed in their police cruiser in December.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Sunday that the arrest “sends a clear message that acts of violence against our law enforcement personnel will never be tolerated” and praised “significant cooperation between federal authorities and the St. Louis County Police Department.”

The police department has been a national focal point since the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by now-former police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was cleared by the Justice Department’s report and a grand jury led by McCulloch declined to indict Wilson in November.

The federal report found widespread racial bias in the city’s policing and in a municipal court system driven by profit extracted from mostly black and low-income residents.

Six Ferguson officials, including Jackson, have resigned or been fired since the federal report was released March 4.

WDTN.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s