FERGUSON, Mo., (Reuters) – The shooting of two police officers at a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, triggered a sweeping manhunt for suspects yesterday and ratcheted up tensions in a city at the center of a national debate over race and policing.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack on the officers, who were released from a hospital after being treated for wounds, and Attorney General Eric Holder called it a “pure ambush.”
“This was not someone who was trying to bring healing to Ferguson; this was a damn punk,” Holder told reporters.
The pair were hit by gunfire outside police headquarters in the St. Louis suburb during a rally by protesters demanding sweeping changes after a scathing U.S. Justice Department report detailed deep-rooted racial bias within Ferguson’s mostly white police force.
The demonstration was the latest of many held in the city since the killing in August of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, which also prompted protests around the country, and the federal investigation.
While condemning the wounding of the officers, organizers vowed more protests Thursday night, as well as a candle-light prayer vigil for peace which was attended by about 40 people a short distance up the road from the police station.
“We deplore all forms of violence,” said Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, who was in the crowd when shots rang out. “But we also deplore the findings of the Department of Justice report and the suffering and the misery that this community has endured.”
To prevent further bloodshed, officials said St. Louis County police and the Missouri Highway Patrol will take over security from the Ferguson force during any demonstrations.
NO ARRESTS MADE
Throughout the day, St. Louis County investigators canvassed streets near the police station, peering into trash cans, down drains, and quizzing residents about what they saw or heard.