Speaking at a press conference Thursday morning to address the earlier shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar drew parallels between this incident and the December 2014 killing of two officers in Brooklyn, New York.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we were very close to having happen what happened in the NYPD with Officer Ramos and Officer Liu," Belmar said, referring to Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, two New York City policemen who were shot and killed while sitting in their patrol car a few days before Christmas. "We could have buried two police officers over this."
The officers were shot in the early morning hours Thursday during an at times tense protest outside Ferguson police headquarters. Immediately after the shooting, both officers—one, a 32-year-old from the nearby Webster Groves suburb, and the other, a 42-year-old St. Louis County policeman—were in serious but not life-threatening condition, according to a police spokesman.
The officers, who haven't been identified by name, have since been released from the hospital.
The protest—one of many since the August 2014 shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown by a local police officer—came in the wake of a critical Justice Department report accusing the city government and police department of racial bias. Belmar said protesters began to gather after the resignation Wednesday afternoon of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson—the latest of several city officials to step down amid harsh criticism regarding their conduct. But most protesters had dispersed by midnight, he said, leaving only about 100 left outside the station.